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SAN FRANCISCO – Well after the rest of his teammates put on their uniforms, Matt Cain wandered into the San Francisco clubhouse and changed clothes for a recent World Series practice.
The workhorse of the rotation for years, Cain isn't pitching for the Giants this October. His season ended in August when he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.
Playing spectator as his team takes on Kansas City is hardly the ideal way to spend the postseason. Especially after Cain helped the Giants win championships in 2010 and 2012.
But Cain, who threw a perfect game two years ago, seems to be handling it all quite well.
"This is great," Cain said. "Nobody wants to be hurt, but what the team has done the last half of the season and what they've done throughout the playoffs, it's been spectacular to watch."
He's had ample time to get accustomed to this new role. He's been a regular at the ballpark throughout his rehab.
"He's definitely one of the biggest leaders on this team," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "It's tough with the injuries and playing this game, it's tough on the body. It's part of the thing when you pitch as many innings as they do. He's an absolute horse."
"You've kind of got to swallow the injury pill," he said. "When it hits you, those things are out of your control. What he does control is his leadership, his personality. That's a big impact on this team."
Cain isn't the only familiar postseason face from San Francisco missing from the roster. Second baseman Marco Scutaro, the 2012 NL Championship Series MVP, was limited to five games in July because of his troublesome back. Speedy center fielder and leadoff man Angel Pagan's season ended in late September with back surgery.
On the Royals side, key reliever Luke Hochevar was lost for the year during spring training and underwent Tommy John elbow surgery.
Tim Hudson, the Giants starter for Game 3 on Friday night, can relate. His season ended prematurely last year in Atlanta because of a broken right ankle that required surgery.
Now, the 39-year-old Hudson will make his World Series debut against Jeremy Guthrie and the Royals after a 16-year wait.
"The only thing you can do is come out here and be around and make sure you're available for anybody if they have something to ask you," Hudson said.
Cain didn't pitch again after July 9 after his elbow trouble began with inflammation.
Even during the rigors of rehabilitation, Cain can be seen in a pitchers' corner of the clubhouse, chatting up locker mates Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Hudson.
"It's a whole different perspective being able to watch the game this way," the 30-year-old Cain said. "You get just as nervous, you're just as stressed out about what guys are doing."
"It's probably a little easier for me when the games are over. And before the game, I'm just worried about trying to get some rehab done. Once the games start, I'm starting to get the tension like those guys get, but those guys are having to live and breathe it for the whole month, where I'm probably able to be a little more relaxed between games."
It was an uncharacteristic year for Cain. He had a pair of three-start skids and went 2-7 with a career-worst 4.18 ERA in 15 starts and just 90 1-3 innings.
In his two postseasons, Cain is 4-2 with a 2.10 ERA in eight starts.
He went unbeaten to help lead San Francisco to the city's first World Series crown in 2010 against Texas, then was a big part of a surprising four-game Series sweep of the Tigers in '12.
Cain's teammates appreciate him finding ways to stay involved and keep others motivated.
"He's been great. There's only so much you can do, he's injured," lefty reliever Javier Lopez said. "Injuries happen, but he hasn't let that faze him. He's going to be here and he's going to be the clubhouse guy that he's always been."
"Sometimes you can get in those modes and want to stay isolated and not be part of the group. He's not doing that," he said. "He wants to be part of this and he's going to cheer guys on and he's going to pick people up when they need to be picked up, and that's something that you really like out of a leader."