SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Matt Cain looked easy to hit on Friday night, yet he was relatively difficult to score upon, and he maintained his candidacy for the No. 5 starting spot, allowing three runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings as Colorado prevailed, 5-1, over San Francisco.
Cain's ERA dipped to a still-high 8.40 from 9.58, and he has allowed 25 hits in 15 innings. Earlier this week, his apparent lack of deception prompted general manager Bobby Evans to express concern during a radio interview.
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Cain also has struck out 10 while walking three, a highly favorable ratio. Moreover, he recorded three swinging strikeouts against the Rockies, including DJ LeMahieu and Trevor Story back-to-back in the third inning.
The former Giants ace and a three-time All-Star, Cain acknowledged that he must improve at shutting down opponents with two strikes on the count or with two outs. For example, Colorado's Raimel Tapia plated the game's first run in the second inning by lining a 1-2 pitch for an RBI triple. One inning later, Colorado launched a scoring rally with two outs and nobody on base.
Overall, Cain said, "I'm throwing the ball where I want to. It feels good coming out. I know that I'm progressing from start to start. I know that I'm getting where I need to get for the season to start. That's something that's not bothering me."
Cain, who's competing with rookie left-hander Ty Blach for the rotation's lone vacancy, accomplished enough to impress manager Bruce Bochy. Last Saturday, Cain allowed five runs on six hits in three innings against Cincinnati.
"Overall, it was a better day for him," Bochy said.
Bochy said that the Giants will consider a pitcher's command, stuff and health as the primary factors. The last of these three formerly was an issue for Cain, who began enduring numerous injuries toward the end of the 2013 season. However, Bochy said, "He has no issues with the arm."
Cain has repeated that being physically whole has enabled him to address his flaws during between-starts workouts rather than concentrate on rehabilitation.
"I think I'm trying to get a little more creative with being able to get guys off balance. I think I've got to do that," Cain said. "I don't have the middle-90s [fastball] that maybe I used to. I have to try to pitch to all four quadrants in the strike zone with the fastball and try to get guys leaning forward and backward and get a little creative."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com 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.