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Forever Giant Matt Cain to retire after final start on Saturday

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Matt Cain took part in three World Series parades for the San Francisco Giants. On Wednesday, he announced that his start on Saturday would be his last as a Major League Baseball player. (Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner)
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Saturday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres will mark the end of an era: Matt Cain’s last outing as a pro baseball player.

The 11-year veteran announced on Wednesday that he is retiring from the game.

“I can’t see myself going anywhere else to be able to play with another team,” Cain told reporters in Arizona. “This organization has meant so much to me, it’s meant so much to my family and it’s something that’s dear to my heart. I’m just grateful that it’s been a part of my life and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed it so much.”

Cain’s career transaction log features just one team: In 2002, he was the Giants’ first-round pick; in 2007, he signed an extension to stay in San Francisco; and twice more (2010, 2012) he would ink deals to remain in orange and black. He’s one of four players to complete 10 seasons all while playing for the Giants; Jim Davenport (1958-70), Scott Garrelts (1982-91) and Robby Thompson (1986-96) are the others.

Affectionately known as “The Horse,” Cain epitomized what it meant to be a great starter at the highest level of baseball. He completed at least 200 innings in each season between 2007 and 2012.

He experienced the highs and lows of being with the franchise. He saw the rise of the team, beginning in 2009 — the same year he made the first of three All-Star Games — when he and Tim Lincecum formed the most fearsome front-of-the-rotation in baseball.

The following season, Cain saved his best starts for the postseason, when he threw three scoreless outings — capped off by a 7.2-inning gem in Game 2 of the World Series.

Out of a career filled with memorable moments, his perfect game in 2012 against the Arizona Diamondbacks will forever stand out. Currently, it’s the only 27-up, 27-down performance in Giants history.

“His play on the field and community service exemplifies what a true big leaguer should be and he will definitely be missed,” Giants president and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. “On behalf of the Giants, I congratulate Matt on an outstanding career and wish him and his family all the best. He’ll forever be a Giant.”

Cain pitched five times during San Francisco’s march to a second title in three years. He went 2-2 during that stretch and will retire with a 2.10 earned run average in the playoffs.

Cain has been a favorite in the clubhouse for years as his steady approach won him friends among his teammates and coaches.

“He’s a special person and one of the better Giants to ever put on this uniform,” Madison Bumgarner said, according to NBC Sports Bay Area. “He gave us the best he had every time … he’s had an unbelievable career, and I’m just happy to have been a part of it.”

During the last couple seasons, as his skills diminished, the Giants scrambled to find a role for him. This season, he oscillated between the bullpen and rotation, depending on the health of his teammates. Manager Bruce Bochy maintained throughout the season that he never heard a complaint.

“That’s something I’ll never forget,” Bochy told reporters. “He’s just a complete Giant with the way he carried himself and how he played.”

And with one year remaining on his contract (a club option with a $9-million buyout), Cain will instead retire from the game.

“I don’t know if there’s a right way or a wrong way of doing it, but after really thinking about it and taking my time with it, I felt like this was the best thing for myself and even for the team and for the fans,” Cain told reporters. “I feel like this works out the right way.”

jpalmer@sfexaminer.com

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