Arrieta enjoys pitching at AT&T Park; Bumgarner unbothered by pressure

Arrieta enjoys pitching at AT&T Park; Bumgarner unbothered by pressure

SAN FRANCISCO — Joe Maddon sat down at a podium at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon and said it would be foolish for his team to be overconfident. A few minutes later, when asked about Madison Bumgarner, he gave a good reason why. Maddon compared the Giants’ ace to Hall-of-Famers Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. 

“It’s unique,” Maddon said of Bumgarner’s postseason dominance. “I hope the kids that are really watching right now understand how good this guy is and how it parallels throughout baseball history, what he’s doing right now.”

Bumgarner has earned the praise through his October work, and the Giants have once again put him in a win or go home situation. Monday’s appearance will be his third in the postseason with that mentality, and he has yet to allow a run in 23 innings with his back up against the wall. It will also be the second straight time that Bumgarner is up against a pitcher with a similar pedigree.

After outlasting Noah Syndergaard, Bumgarner will face Jake Arrieta. The reigning Cy Young Award winner has a 1.82 ERA in six career starts against the Giants, and he gave up just one run and struck out eight in a win at AT&T Park on May 20. 

“I enjoy it. I enjoy AT&T Park very much,” Arrieta said. “It’s a great city. The fans here are tremendous and obviously the home crowd is going to be really, really amped up and extremely loud. That’s expected here. You love to see that, especially in this atmosphere in the postseason, with what this team has done. There’s a lot of excitement. There’s going to be a lot of adrenaline flowing tomorrow.”

For Arrieta, that has sometimes led to wildness. The Giants know he can lose his command, but they also know that, after two feckless offensive performances, they can’t sit around and wait for something good to happen. Arrieta’s raw stuff is too good. 

Bumgarner will certainly try to take care of both ends. He relished two days of batting practice at Wrigley Field, peppering Waveland Avenue and taking aim at the digital scoreboard in left-center. Arrieta said he will treat Bumgarner like a position player, and Bumgarner will have to do the same with his counterpart, who batted .262 this season with two homers. 

“We’ll attack each other accordingly,” Arrieta said, “And not take it lightly.”

Said Bumgarner: “The last thing any pitcher wants to do is give up a hit to another pitcher.”

Bumgarner had little trouble with Syndergaard, another power-hitting pitcher. The big right-hander was just a speed bump on the way to another postseason shutout, and the Giants hope Arrieta plays a similar role. Their best shot in any postseason game is to let Bumgarner go the distance, but against the Cubs, it’s even more imperative to avoid a bullpen game. In 32 1/3 innings against the Giants this season, Cubs relievers have not allowed a run. 

That reality pushes a bit more down on Bumgarner’s shoulders, but on Sunday he again appeared unbothered by the mounting pressure. Bumgarner was one of the few Giants to take the field during an optional workout, a relaxed look on his face as he played a light game of catch. He smiled and shrugged off Maddon’s comparison to Gibson and Koufax. 

“As soon as you start buying into that, that’s probably going to take a turn,” Bumgarner said. “I’m just going to go out there and keep going at it the way I have, and whatever happens, happens.”

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”