Madison Bumgarner never seemed too worried about it, but after every one of his previous Spring Training starts he’d mention how his command wasn’t up to par. He said he was progressing with each start, and that was good enough for him. Today, he was sensational. Four shutout innings, one hit allowed, one walk and four strikeouts in a 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers.
“It went pretty good. I was happy with it. Taking steps in the right direction, every time a little better,” Bumgarner said. “Today command was quite a bit better. Rhythm could’ve been a little better, felt like I was hit and miss with that. But overall, pretty good.”
Pretty typical Bumgarner quote, right? Downplaying the success, mentioning something to work on (by “rhythm” he means keeping the pace of his delivery consistent). But there were a few times where Bumgarner had me literally laughing out loud in the clubhouse.
First, he was ready to speak to the media really quickly. Like less than five minutes after he threw his last pitch in a 1-2-3 fourth inning. Perhaps he wanted to beat the traffic out of Surprise, which shows he’s pretty smart (the Rangers’ ballpark is about 50 minutes from Scottsdale in normal traffic, and who knows how long it will take the Giants who left after this game concluded at 4 pm).
I was down there with a couple other writers, but we wanted to be courteous and wait until a few of the regular beat writers made their way downstairs from the press box.
“I’m ready when you are,” Bumgarner said.
Chris Haft let him know that some of the beat guys were busy tweeting something about the game, but they were on their way.
“I don’t talk to tweeters,” Bumgarner deadpanned.
Another writer who I didn’t recognize said that because Nick Noonan and Hunter Pence hit consecutive triples, they had to tweet something because it was “required by law.” Bumgarner wasn’t impressed, and said he didn’t know about any law like that.
So for those of you hoping Bumgarner will join Brandon Belt as an active participant on Twitter, don’t hold your breath.
During the serious part of the interview session I asked Bumgarner how many two-seam fastballs he threw today, since that’s a pitch he has been working on over his last few starts after going away from that pitch in 2012.
“I didn’t throw that many today. Four-seam away command was pretty good. I might not have thrown any. Don’t think I did. Threw some changeups though, changeup was the best it’s been,” said Bumgarner, who appeared to come to the realization that he went away from the two-seamer while he was answering the question.
Then the comedy routine started again. Andrew Baggarly asked him about the Dodgers’ rotation, and how it stacks up against the Giants’ starters.
Bumgarner: “What is their rotation?”
Baggarly started rattling off names. “Greinke, Kershaw…”
“Is that the order?”
Baggarly flipped Kershaw and Greinke, then he and others started listing other Dodgers starters: Billingsley, Ryu, Lilly, Harang, Beckett.
“They’ve got a lot of pitchers,” Baggarly said.
“Are they going to have an eight-man rotation?” Bumgarner asked. His question again drew laughs from the six or so writers surrounding his locker.
“I don’t know, sounds like a pretty good staff,” said Bumgarner. “We’ve got a pretty good staff. I’ve said it plenty of times. I think our staff’s as good as anybody’s out there at times. At times we’re not. Everybody’s going to go through rough patches throughout the season. But I’ll take our guys anytime.”
The entire exchange reminded me of when Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings to lead the Giants to victory in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series in Arlington. Afterward, Ken Rosenthal interviewed Aubrey Huff on the field because he hit a home run (it would be the last home run Huff would ever hit … okay, not really). Huff was asked about this quiet kid who just made a name for himself on the World Series stage. I don’t remember exactly what Huff said, but it was along the lines of, “He’s not that quiet. He doesn’t show it for you guys, but he’s got a wicked sense of humor.” (Again, totally paraphrasing, but that’s pretty much the gist.)
I remember when I asked Bumgarner about a comment Bruce Bochy made about him having the most power of any pitcher on the team, and Bumgarner’s response about Barry Zito had the media crowd in stitches. But I’m pretty sure he’s like this all the time with his teammates. As he gets older and becomes a leader on this team — that’s probably happening already, actually — I think we’ll get to see the dry, witty side of Bumgarner’s personality more and more.
— You probably already heard that Andres Torres broke a bat over his leg today after striking out. Bochy didn’t have much to say about it other than, “He needs the playing time. He needs at-bats right now.” So let’s turn it over to Bumgarner, who was asked if he’ll destroy any lumber anytime soon.
“Hopefully not. Hopefully I’m not ever that mad. I’ve seen him do it a few times. He’s pretty strong.”
Stay tuned for a GIF-centric post from Giants Gamer Babe featuring Torres and his feat of strength.
— Noonan made another great defensive play at third, a diving stop that probably topped everything else he’s done so far. He’s only hitting .143, but he hit that deep triple today and has looked fantastic on defense throughout this spring. Bochy didn’t say anything concrete about Noonan’s chances to make the club other than saying, “We’ll stay open-minded.”
— Pence hit a double and a triple to push his Cactus League slash to .300/.333/.533. Still no home runs, but it feels like we’ll see one any day now.
— Tony Abreu went 1-for-2 in his debut, but said he felt knee soreness afterward. It didn’t sound serious, however.
— Heath Hembree walked one and struck out the side without giving up a hit in the eighth. I asked Bochy about how Hembree bounced back after a pretty awful outing against the Indians the other day, when he gave up back-to-back deep homers to Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi.
“Good for him to bounce back, get ahead in the count,” said Bochy, who also remarked that Hembree threw some “good sliders.”
— On that note, Bochy said it was a “Good day for our staff.” The only run was allowed by Chad Gaudin, who gave up four hits in two innings. At least he didn’t give up a zillion runs like Yusmeiro Petit and Scott Proctor did on Saturday. Javier Lopez and Dan Runzler also threw one scoreless inning apiece.
— The Giants will play against Japan at Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday, meaning I’ll probably need to get to the park at 7 am to get a seat in the press box. Actually, make that 6 am.
— Recent BASGcast guest Alex Pavlovic had a pretty funny response to Gary Brown on Twitter this afternoon: