San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain Headed For The Minors? Lincecum Returning?

Oh, Matt, how did we get here?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain’s performance since the beginning of the season — and during San Francisco’s 2016 pre-season play — has been absolutely dismal.

During San Francisco’s 2016 season, Cain is 0-4 with a 7.84 ERA in 31 innings pitched. He is off to the worst season start of his career in 2016, and as the official site of the San Francisco Giants points out, Cain’s showings just keep getting worse. In his last start, which was against the Colorado Rockies yesterday, he allowed eight runs in only four innings.

Matt Cain’s abhorrent performance is shocking considering that he was, at one time, quite arguably the most desirable pitcher in the MLB. Not only did he consistently take the mound and pitch very deep into his games while only allowing two or three runs, but he was (and still is) great for team chemistry and very loyal — he has stuck with the Giants for all 10-plus seasons of his career.

San Francisco Giant Matt Cain May Be Headed To Minors; Will Tim Lincecum Replace Him?
Matt Cain was a key factor in the giants winning the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

Cain’s spectacular decline in pitching performance has led San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy to ponder a question that would have seemed totally unthinkable five years ago: Should Cain, the former phenom, be sent to the minor leagues until he can get a grip on his performance?

“We’ve talked about that,” Bochy told SF Gate in the past.

Realistically, though, Cain is probably not going anywhere, and the reason for that is simple: He is the best option right now. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the “back end” of San Francisco’s pitching rotation, which, unfortunately, includes Matt Cain at this point, looks very flat, and there is no one currently available to step in and pick up the slack.

San Francisco Giant Matt Cain May Be Headed To Minors; Will Tim Lincecum Replace Him?
The Giants were banking on Chris Heston being a potential starter after his excellent season in the minors last year, but he could not recreate his performance in the majors. [Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images]

The article goes on to say that the Giants’ top three starters — Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija — are doing a great job of holding up the team on the days they start, but San Francisco’s other two starters — Matt Cain and the also-slumping Jake Peavy — have not been following suit.

“It’s still early, but Cain and Peavy are crushing the Giants’ bullpen,” reads the article. “How long can Bruce Bochy stick with them without incurring severe damage to the rest of his staff? The top three starters have been solid, but the Giants need a full rotation.”

Bochy disagrees, insisting that Cain is just going through a rough patch and saying that bearing with the pitcher is the least San Francisco can do after Cain has given them over a decade of what was, for the most part, top-notch pitching.

“We’re standing behind these guys,” Bochy said in reference to Peavy and Cain. “Hopefully, it’s going to get better here. As far as how long … they’re capable of getting on track. It’s encouraging at times, but at the same time we know we need to get better there. “

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Cain himself contributed a similar sentiment, saying that he just needs to keep trusting in himself and hoping his starts will improve.

“The biggest thing is to keep trusting the stuff is there. It’s a matter of executing. The bullpen [sessions] are always good and you want to go ahead and have some success on the field.”

San Francisco Giants fans and reporters are not so sure, though. Either that or they just really love Tim Lincecum. Regardless, lots of them are suggesting that the Giants give Cain some time to readjust in the minors and bring back Tim Lincecum to take his place.

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Lincecum played for the Giants up until a hip injury took him out of the game midway through last season. His contract with San Francisco ended during this past offseason, and he never signed with a new team. Lincecum is now recovered, and he is to show off his stuff for major league scouts in a showcase on the afternoon of Friday, May 6.

If Lincecum’s showcase goes well and he is not asking for too much money, he could make a return to the San Francisco Giants organization in which his baseball career was born and bred. But would it be at the expense of another Giants native, Matt Cain?

[Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]