Cain ready for fifth-starter competition

After recent injury-plagued seasons, veteran will try to earn spot back

Cain ready for fifth-starter competition

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Cain's attitude with regard to the impending competition for the Giants' fifth-starter's spot is simple: Bring it on.

Cain has endured a myriad of injuries since 2013, which have sharply diminished the former staff ace's skills. Now he's pursuing the last spot in the starting rotation alongside at least four rookies.

"Good. Let's go with it," Cain told reporters Monday as Giants pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. "It's good, competition. Let's all compete for it. Fine with me. I know those guys are here for it and I'm up for the challenge."

Cain, 32, reached his zenith in 2012, when he pitched a perfect game, started for the National League in the All-Star Game and won two games in the postseason. Since then, the right-hander has endured injuries to his forearm, hamstring, index finger, elbow and lower back. He has undergone surgeries on his elbow and right ankle to remove bone spurs.

Last year, Cain was limited to 21 appearances (17 starts) and finished 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA.

"I had some really good moments and some really terrible moments," said Cain, who has a 16-29 record with a 4.64 ERA since 2013 after posting an 85-78 record with a 3.27 ERA before that.

However, Cain said that was able to experience a "normal" offseason this year, during which he could train and even go on vacation with his family instead of rehabilitate.

He repeated the word "normal" to describe what he hopes will be his physical condition throughout Spring Training.

Cain faces competition from rookies Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Clayton Blackburn and Tyler Beede for the No. 5 starting spot. But if he can approach his previous standards, he believes "everything else will fall into place."

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Giants general manager Bobby Evans continues to believe in Cain's skills.

"I'm hoping Matt Cain's able to accomplish being Matt Cain again, not only this spring but this season," Evans said. "Because that makes us a stronger and better team."

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner cautioned not to bet against Cain, whose 308 starts rank second only to Hall of Famer Juan Marichal (446) in the Giants' franchise history.

"He's been around for a while and he knows exactly what he needs to do to get ready," Bumgarner said of Cain. "It's not like he's trying to feel his way through."

• Right-hander Johnny Cueto is expected to miss the first two or three days of workouts while he tends to his ill father in the Dominican Republic. Cueto is expected to pitch for the Dominicans in next month's World Baseball Classic.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.