If Matt Cain wants to be a Giant for life, well, he isn't saying

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The perception of star Giants starter Matt Cain has long been that he wanted to remain a San Francisco Giant for life, no matter what the deal. The early guess -- and it looks to be a bad one -- was that he was going to roll over in negotiations.

If Cain, 27, even prefers to stay in San Francisco, he isn't saying now. There's a week to go before a very loose Opening Day deadline to get a deal done for the top pitcher, and he certainly isn't giving the impression he is about to re-up. Or even that he particularly prefers to re-up.

The noncommittal stance of Cain, a free agent after the year if he remains unsigned, could simply be part of a smart strategy for a top pitcher who wants to stay where he loves it. Or it could mean the negotiations haven't gone exactly the way he's hoped. One person involved in the discussions insisted there has at least been some "back and forth'' to the talks in recent days, but the suggestion as of a few days ago was that there was still a very sizable gap to bridge.

To the key question of whether he preferred to remain a Giant "all things being equal,'' the thoughtful Cain didn't rush to answer. And when he did, he didn't exactly say yes.

"I enjoy being here with the guys, and I'm looking forward to playing the season,'' Cain said after a pause. "I am a year away from free agency. That's an exciting part of your career as well.''

The negotiation itself is becoming a bit more exciting than folks figured for one of the very best pitchers in the National League. The Giants at first expected to be able to keep Cain for quite a bit less than a $100-million deal, but someone familiar with the thinking of Cain's side said earlier this spring there was "no chance'' he'd sign a deal for less than nine figures. (Two competing executives opined that they believe Cain is correct to hold out for more than $100 million considering the contracts top pitchers have signed in recent years.)

The sides have a week, give or take, to bridge a big difference. Cain, who's in the last year of a team-friendly three-year, $27.25-million deal, suggested there wasn't all that much happening yet in talks. Although, Giants officials are suggesting behind the scenes that they remain hopeful a deal can still be arranged despite time running out.

Giants people suggest that there is no hard deadline of Opening Day for a contract, only that there's an "understanding'' that the parties prefer to resolve things by then. Cain was even stronger in his comments about not wanting to negotiate into the season, saying, "I think both sides want a resolution by the seasons's start. We don't want it to linger into the season. Once the season starts, I want to be focused on that. Even now, I am focusing on the season.''

That may well be a hint the Giants have given him little to think about so far.

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