SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Over the winter, any time Major League executives wanted to talk about trades with the Giants, the first name on their lips was Matt Cain.

San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean is no dummy. He told them, politely, no, but inside he was saying to himself that no possible way, for even millions of bucks or a star player, would the club even think about swapping the young right-handed pitcher.

Cain is a keeper.

"He's one of those can't-miss guys, for sure," said manager Felipe Alou. "He's still growing -- wait until he is fully mature."

At 20, the stocky Cain with his whip arm and strong legs is definitely on the fast track and becoming stronger and smarter every season since being plucked in the first round of the 2002 draft.

Cain, USA Today's Giants Organizational Player of 2004, is 17-10 with a 2.71 ERA over 50 minor league contests and showed considerable poise in his initial Spring Training outing by holding the Chicago Cubs scoreless over two frames.

In his next outing, the Arizona Diamondbacks knocked him around for four hits and two runs in two innings, but with two runners on in the fifth frame he struck out Shawn Green swinging.

Strikeouts are Cain's stock and trade. He's fanned 271 batters over 252 career innings, but the kid out of Germantown, Tenn., realizes most veterans eat fastballs for dinner, and has studiously added a mix of pitches to his repertoire.

"Just being around Bob Stanley [pitching coach at Double-A Norwich] and Bert Bradley [roving minor league instructor] has helped me a lot," said Cain, who admits he's far from perfect. "You're always going to be at risk. There were times I couldn't get the ball over the plate, but I try to take the goods and push away the bads."

With a glut of pitchers in camp, Cain won't be on the Opening Day roster, having been reassigned on March 13. But the righty is likely to see San Francisco during the regular season as a callup -- maybe in an emergency, maybe ... you never know.

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"I want to get through Spring Training and see where they want to put me," said Cain, who had a brilliant 7-1 mark and 1.86 ERA at Class A San Jose last season. Hello, Triple-A Fresno.

That would be nice. Fresno is about a three-hour drive from San Francisco, and after logging a 13-5 record and 2.67 record overall at San Jose and Norwich -- leading all San Francisco farmhands in wins and strikeouts (161) seeing the minors in his rearview mirror is just a matter of when, not if.

Last spring, Cain was still a teenager in Scottsdale and only appeared in "B" games, being socked around a bit facing big leaguers for the first time. Again, however, it was a learning experience.

The Giants love his baseball grade-point average so far, and if the right-hander stays healthy, no telling how good he can be.

"Untapped potential," said Alou.