SD@SF: Hembree strikes out a pair of Padres

SAN FRANCISCO -- Unlike 2012, when he participated in the Giants' instructional league program, and last year, when he performed in the Arizona Fall League, Heath Hembree will receive an immediate break after the season ends Sunday.

"This will be my first offseason where I get to relax a little more," said Hembree, ranked the Giants' No. 6 prospect by MLB.com.

He has earned the rest.

Hembree, 24, has made the most of his September promotion. After striking out two in a perfect seventh inning during Saturday's 9-3 loss to the Padres, the right-hander has allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings spanning eight appearances. Hembree preceded his callup by recording a team-record 31 saves for Triple-A Fresno.

The velocity on Hembree's fastball has dipped slightly, but his effectiveness hasn't.

"I don't care how it's coming out velocity-wise," said Hembree, who has relied increasingly on his slider. "I just want to make sure I hit my spots and make quality pitches."

As a result, Hembree has positioned himself to compete for a bullpen role in Spring Training next year. Asked to name the Giants' September callups who have distinguished themselves, general manager Brian Sabean cited Hembree.

"I'd say he's the most intriguing," Sabean said. "He's come a long way."

Cain fine with skipping final start of season

LAD@SF: Cain holds Dodgers to two over seven innings

SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain had no problem accepting the early beginning to his offseason.

Scheduled to start Sunday's series finale against San Diego, Cain was removed from that assignment and replaced by Guillermo Moscoso. Giants manager Bruce Bochy essentially reasoned that Cain already has filled his quota of hard work.

"If we wanted to pitch [Sunday], that would be fine," said Cain, who finished 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 30 starts. "It was nothing health-wise or anything like that. It felt like that was enough, and we'll go with that decision."

Cain had no concrete explanation for his erratic performance this year. The right-hander recorded a 5.06 ERA in 19 outings before the All-Star break, then fashioned a 2.36 ERA in 11 second-half starts. Cain theorized that he improved "maybe because I was thinking it really couldn't get much worse."

Except for Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco's starters struggled overall early in the season. Cain agreed with general manager Brian Sabean's assessment that the Giants' rotation must regain its elite status for the team to resume being competitive.

"We just didn't give these guys a chance to win some games we thought we could have," Cain said.