SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Matt Cain quickly became San Francisco's hard-luck starter last season though you never would have known it.
Enough so that his Giants teammates were constantly apologizing for not getting him a victory.
"It's done with. I try not to think about the things that went on like that," Cain said. "I try to think about what I did well and how I can repeat that this year, whatever got me on a good roll and try to think about finding that again and running with it."
Cain spent the winter moving into and furnishing his new house in Memphis and going on adventures with his golden lab, Cali, rather than fretting about his subpar season. That's just how he rolls, and his bosses and teammates appreciate him all the more for that attitude.
The 23-year-old Cain followed his 13-win rookie season of 2006 with a 7-16 showing last year despite a 3.65 ERA - 10th best in the NL - in exactly 200 innings.
A lack of run support often was his nemesis. The Giants averaged 3.51 runs in his outings, second-lowest in the majors among qualifying pitchers - and only averaged 2.5 runs when he was on the mound.
At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, Cain has shown he is durable by making at least 30 starts in each of his first two full major league campaigns. He still had 22 quality starts in 2007, too, leading the Giants starters in ERA, innings and 163 strikeouts.
Yet rarely did he appear down or demoralized.
"That's Cain. Even though his record didn't show for it, he obviously pitched really well for us," fellow righty starter Tim Lincecum said. "He didn't let it get to him. That just shows how mature he is about it. He was drafted out of high school and has been around. He's got that experience I'm hoping to find in the next couple of years. He doesn't let it get to him. He just brushes it off and competes every day."
That doesn't mean it was easy for Cain to leave the clubhouse each night after facing the media following another frustrating defeat.
What did give him a boost was general manager Brian Sabean announcing this winter a longterm commitment to keep Cain and Lincecum, the two star youngsters in the rotation, to complement left-handers Barry Zito and Noah Lowry. Kevin Correia is in line for the No. 5 job.
"It's a nice luxury to have," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We have a lot of depth in the rotation and the bullpen. I'm a firm believer that pitching is going to carry you. I think our rotation matches up with any rotation in our league."
Cain, for one, considers this a fresh start for everybody on a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2003. The Giants are free of Barry Bonds and the daily drama the indicted home run king brought with him, and the starters should be more in sync. This will be Zito's second season in San Francisco after signing his $126 million, seven-year deal, and Lincecum is more comfortable after going through his 7-5 rookie season.
Cain knows San Francisco can only get better, because the club can't fall any further than its last-place 2007 finish in the NL West at 71-91. The Dodgers (82-80) and Giants brought up the rear for just the second time since divisional play began in 1969.
"It was tough to have to go through all that," Cain said. "But the good games and the bad games, either one, I found out how much my teammates appreciated everything That was huge. That picked me up and kept me going. They always were all over me, 'Hey, don't worry about this.' They were always really supportive whether we won or we lost."
Notes: 11-time Gold Glove SS Omar Vizquel was held out of conditioning drills Thursday with a sore left knee, while INF Rich Aurilia also sat out with a cramp but still did all his baseball work. ... C Bengie Molina is nursing a strained left quadriceps that likely will limit him for a couple of days.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)