PHOENIX -- The jarring sight of Matt Cain wearing a Major League uniform other than one representing the San Francisco Giants will never materialize.
Prompted by a variety of factors -- the expiration of his contract, injury-eroded skills and a young family -- Cain announced before Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the D-backs that he will retire at the end of the season, officially ending a career distinguished by accomplishment and length.
A three-time National League All-Star, Cain pitched the only perfect game in the franchise's illustrious history on June 13, 2012, against the Astros. He won the 2009 "Willie Mac" Award, which goes annually to the most inspirational Giant. And he posted a 4-2 record with a 2.10 ERA in eight postseason starts, contributing heavily to two of the Giants' three World Series titles since 2010.
Moreover, Cain earned his seldom-used but apt nickname, "The Horse," by pitching 200 innings or more for six consecutive seasons (2007-12). His 13-year tenure also stood alone, since it was the longest by any player to perform only for the Giants since the team moved west from New York before the 1958 season.
This made Cain virtually synonymous with the Giants. And the stoic starter who was born in Alabama and raised in Tennessee grew to cherish his identification with the ballclub and the city.
"That's what makes this a little bit easier for me, is to know that I started out in 2002 [as a first-round Draft pick], put a Giants uniform on ... and knowing that's the exact same way I'm going to be going out, is with a Giants uniform on," said Cain. "I've been lucky enough to be with the same organization. It means so much to me. And I can't picture myself putting a different uniform on."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday that Cain, who was removed from the club's starting rotation at the end of July, will start Saturday at AT&T Park against the Padres. The assignment was viewed as a farewell as much as a tribute, since the Giants had no plans to retain Cain by picking up their $21 million option on his services for 2018. That would cast Cain into free agency, a process he couldn't stomach.
Ultimately, Cain could quit baseball, but he couldn't quit being a Giant.
"I can't see myself going anywhere else to play with another team," he said. "This organization has meant so much to me. It's meant so much to my family. It's something that's dear to my heart. I'm just grateful that it's been a part of my life. I've enjoyed it, really, so much."
Cain's friendly competition with Tim Lincecum seemed as if it could propel them to the heights reached by San Francisco's previous pair of aces, Hall of Famers Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.
But injuries began derailing Cain in 2013, when he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a right forearm contusion. He visited the DL three times in 2014 with a cut right index finger, a strained right hamstring and right elbow inflammation. Forearm and elbow injuries limited him to 13 appearances (11 starts) in 2015. Elbow and back problems nagged him last year.
Cain owns a 104-118 record, having plunged below .500 as the aforementioned injuries snarled his effectiveness. He's 3-11 this year in 26 games (22 starts) and has compiled a 19-40 mark since his health declined in 2013.
Cain's admirers point out that mere numbers do not capture his essence.
"If he was ever nervous, you couldn't tell," Posey said. "I think that's what I will remember most of all, is that he took the mound with the same intensity and focus, no matter whether it was a start at the beginning of May or that [World Series] Game 4 start in Detroit. I think that gave a lot of guys -- not only on the [pitching] staff -- a sense of comfort and confidence. It also transcended to the rest of the guys on the team as well, and we were able to gather some strength from that."
"I'm not going to sit here and try to put everything he's meant to me and this organization in a couple of sentences or a few minutes," Bumgarner said. "He's a special person, one of the better Giants ever to put on this uniform and one of my best friends. ... I've got so many thoughts about him and memories running through my head, it's hard to give you one or two that take precedence. There have been a lot of special times between us."
Cain said that he consulted Posey and Bumgarner recently as his consideration of retirement accelerated. He also spoke with Bochy, pitching coach Dave Righetti, bullpen coach Mark Gardner and general manager Bobby Evans.
Evans simplified the decision for Cain by guaranteeing him his $7.5 million buyout for 2018 -- which wasn't nullified by the pitcher's retirement.
"He earned it," Evans said.
Now Cain can immerse himself in life with his wife, Chelsea, and their daughters, Hartley, 6, and Everly, 3.
"It feels now is the right time and I wanted to be able to enjoy my family," he said.
Now he can fully relish Saturday's farewell start and the numerous friends and relatives who will join what promises to be an adoring throng at AT&T Park.
"I want to be able to enjoy this season's last weekend and have fun with it," he said.
Now he can reflect on a remarkable professional career, which began as the Giants were beginning their transition from the Barry Bonds-dominated era. Cain endured the growing pains as well as the glory -- four consecutive losing seasons (2005-08) followed by the three World Series triumphs.
"To be able to go through that entire process with an organization is special," Cain said. "... I think we've been through the full gamut of everything. That's something that is satisfying. I know that I'm able to hang my hat at the end of the day and say that I put everything I could into this and I've experienced it all. And enjoyed every bit of it."
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.