SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have four veteran right-handers in their rotation, but it's the precocious 24-year-old left-hander who will toe the rubber on opening day.
Manager Bruce Bochy announced Tuesday that Madison Bumgarner will take the ball March 31 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, ending Matt Cain's one-year hold on the honor. Bumgarner will be the Giants' youngest opening day starter since 1984, when 23-year-old Mark Davis kicked off the season.
"He had a real nice year and he hasn't done it before," Bochy said. "We'll check that box off in his career. We wanted to reward Madison for his great year."
In announcing his decision, Bochy said there "are no egos" in the starters meetings and applauded all five of them. But this was only a two-horse race. Cain recovered from a rough first half to post a 2.36 ERA after the All-Star break, but Bumgarner was a rock throughout the 76-86 season, going 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA and making his first All-Star team. Bumgarner had gone home for the day when Bochy made the decision public, but Cain said the usually stoic southpaw was "kind of in shock and a little bit in awe" during a staff meeting.
"It's going to be a cool moment for him and I think he's going to really enjoy it," Cain continued. "He's going to be a good guy to have leading the rotation."
In Cain and Bumgarner, the Giants have for several years had one of the league's top tandems. With the order reversed, they're expecting the same fireworks.
"We've had a lot of success with Matt being the No. 2 guy," Bochy said.
The manager spoke to Cain about the decision and said he took the change in stride. Since Bumgarner first broke into the majors in 2009 at the age of 19, Cain has been a trusted mentor. It's no coincidence that Bumgarner, who had a few memorable outbursts as a top minor league prospect, has mirrored Cain's demeanor on the mound and in postgame interviews.
"I'm happy for him, I'm pumped for him," Cain said. "I'm excited to watch him go out there and start opening day and get the season started right for us. It's such an honor to go out there and pitch that first game, and he's more than deserving."
At an age when most pitching prospects are just cutting their teeth in the majors, Bumgarner, the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft, already has 49 wins and 7351/3 big league innings under his oversized belt buckle. The North Carolina native has shined brightest on the biggest stage, throwing 15 scoreless innings in two World Series starts.
Before Cain in 2013, the Giants got four straight opening day starts from Tim Lincecum, who will be slotted in the No. 4 spot when the rotation starts turning over on Friday. Tim Hudson is third and Ryan Vogelsong is fifth, although Bochy said the two Tims may be swapped sometime during the spring.
If they are not, Hudson, not Lincecum would start the April 8 home opener against the Diamondbacks, who will also host the Giants' season opener for the second time in three years. With Bumgarner starting this time around and Cain following him, the Giants will throw both their aces at the Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers during an important season-opening seven-game road trip.
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