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Madison Bumgarner is coming back, and Matt Cain is going to the bullpen

The Giants are getting their ace back, and they’ll have the rotation they should have had on Opening Day.

San Francisco Giants v Texas Rangers, Game 5
Dong hats!
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Madison Bumgarner will pitch in his first game since April 19, starting against the Padres on Saturday, with Matt Cain moving to the bullpen to make room in the rotation, according to NBC Sports Bay Area. That’s just about the most dramatic improvement any team can possibly make to their starting pitching.

While it seemed like moving Cain to the bullpen was the obvious move, there was still a chance of tomfoolery or appeal to nostalgia. In the end, Ty Blach and Matt Moore both have a chance to contribute to the 2018 Giants, while Cain almost certainly does not. He had a 5.56 ERA this season in 17 starts, and that was his lowest ERA of the last three seasons. I’ve fact-checked that last sentence six times

It’s almost as if this experiment should have ended years ago, but, well, those six excellent seasons were a lot of fun, and if you’re going to chase a dragon, at least make it one with layers of nostalgia and championship fun.

Bumgarner returns to the rotation after three rehab starts in the minor leagues, with his final start in San Jose his most encouraging. He allowed two hits and a walk over six innings, striking out eight.

It’s tempting to eulogize Cain’s career as a starting pitcher, but if he’s staying on the roster, there’s always a chance for a spot start or a need that arises because of injury. He might still have a couple starts left in him.

The question becomes who makes room for Cain in the bullpen. The current relief corp:

  • Sam Dyson
  • Hunter Strickland
  • George Kontos
  • Josh Osich
  • Cory Gearrin
  • Steven Okert
  • Kyle Crick

The easy fix is to send one of the left-handers down depending on performance, and Okert has been having the tougher time. A more interesting question is who makes room for Mark Melancon when he comes back? Do the Giants go without a left-hander in the bullpen, which would make Bruce Bochy howl at the moon and hide in a locked car parked in the middle of a forest? Or do they do the easiest roster move, and send down Crick, even though he’s been interesting and productive?

My guess is that a reliever will be traded before Melancon is ready, but I’m open to alternate theories.

Regardless, Madison Bumgarner is replacing Matt Cain in the rotation, and that should make the Giants 20 percent more watchable. As someone who is forced to watch them, this pleases me greatly.