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Stratton benefits from Cain's lessons

Giants' rotation candidate soaked up knowledge from retired hurler
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Cain is retired, but his wisdom endures in the hearts and minds of the Giants' younger pitchers, who received plenty of advice from the three-time All-Star, particularly last season.

One of Cain's most eager pupils was Chris Stratton, a leading candidate for one of the two starting-rotation vacancies. Saturday, Stratton stranded four baserunners in two innings, but still blanked a split-squad of Dodgers, who fell 9-3 to San Francisco in a Cactus League affair.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Cain is retired, but his wisdom endures in the hearts and minds of the Giants' younger pitchers, who received plenty of advice from the three-time All-Star, particularly last season.

One of Cain's most eager pupils was Chris Stratton, a leading candidate for one of the two starting-rotation vacancies. Saturday, Stratton stranded four baserunners in two innings, but still blanked a split-squad of Dodgers, who fell 9-3 to San Francisco in a Cactus League affair.

A sampling of Cain's tutelage: Never look into the dugout or even glance in that direction when you're in trouble, because the manager or pitching coach will think you want to leave the game.

Stratton heeded this counsel in the second inning, when he loaded the bases with two outs. The right-hander escaped by slipping a curveball past Chase Utley for strike three.

Stratton also looked impressive in the first inning, retiring Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig after Joc Pederson doubled with one out.

Besides Stratton, Cain was extremely helpful to lefties Ty Blach and Steven Okert.

"He was just an easy guy to lean on," Stratton said. "I think he knew his time was kind of winding down. So I think he wanted to pour as much as he could into us. ... When guys like that talk, you definitely listen. I love Matt Cain. I wish he were still around."

Up next

At least four projected regulars -- right fielder Andrew McCutchen, second baseman Joe Panik, left fielder Hunter Pence and Evan Longoria -- will be in Sunday's lineup against the Cubs beginning at 12:05 p.m. PT at Scottsdale Stadium and airing on Gameday Audio.

Longoria will serve as the designated hitter, leaving Pablo Sandoval to start at third base. Gorkys Hernandez and Steven Duggar will split time in center field.

Worth noting

• Manager Bruce Bochy said that catcher Buster Posey tweaked an ankle while taking a swing in batting practice, though the injury isn't considered serious. But Posey will be out of the lineup for at least another couple of days.

• Bochy added that shortstop Brandon Crawford and outfielder Austin Jackson will not appear in a Cactus League game until March 1. Both are completely healthy, Bochy emphasized. But the Giants want to preserve Crawford's powerful throwing arm, which has shown signs of weariness in previous Spring Trainings. Likewise, the Giants want to preserve the energy in the speedy Jackson's legs for as long as possible.

Gregor Blanco looked spry while hitting a game-opening triple.

"That's why we signed him," Bochy said. "He still plays like he's in his 20s."

• Bochy will be in San Diego on Sunday to attend a celebration of the life of Kevin Towers, the former general manager who died Jan. 30. Bochy and Towers forged an extremely close bond when both were with the Padres. Hensley Meulens will manage the Giants in Bochy's absence.

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.

San Francisco Giants