Bumgarner evaluates his first start back with Giants: 'I'll take that anytime'

Bumgarner evaluates his first start back with Giants: 'I'll take that anytime'

SAN DIEGO — Madison Bumgarner is a perfectionist on the mound, but even he likely didn’t scrip a return like the one he had around 6 p.m. Saturday night. 

Bumgarner struck out the side in his first MLB inning since April 19, showing right from the jump that he’s the same guy. The rest of his night included some rockier moments, and the Giants ultimately lost, but they at least could walk away knowing that their ace is fine.

The team? Not so much. But Bumgarner is fine. 

“It’s good to have him back,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Overall, I thought he did a real nice job.”

Bochy did not attend any of Bumgarner’s rehab starts, although he watched video. In that sense, seeing Bumgarner stand a few feet away and sling cutters in on hands was a bit of a relief. He always felt his lefty would be fine after a dirt bike accident, but this night confirmed it.

“To see him back in action, he looked the same,” Bochy said. “His delivery and everything looked good. The command was really good tonight.”

Unfortunately for Bochy, his Giants looked the same, too. They failed to take advantage of Jhoulys Chacin’s early wobbles, scoring just two runs in the first and one in the sixth. They went down in a manner that was equally surprising and not. Hector Sanchez, the longtime backup to Buster Posey, crushed a Steven Okert pitch into the night to walk the Giants off and clinch a 5-3 win for his new team. 

Bumgarner felt some of the sting of that. On this night, he was sharp enough that he could have gone just about the distance. But Bumgarner’s pitch count was right around 100, and he was pulled after getting through seven on 102 pitches. Bumgarner was charged with three earned on four hits, including two homers. 

“I felt pretty good the whole time,” he said. “We were making pitches pretty much from the first inning on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go much over 100 (pitches). They weren’t going to let me, anyway. Going out for seven, I’ll take that anytime.”

Bumgarner gave up two homers, both on two-strike curveballs. It took him some time during the rehab process to get his breaking pitches squared away, but he said this night wasn’t about rust. 

“They weren’t bad pitches,” he said. “Looking back, they were the wrong pitches.”

Okert made the wrong pitch, too. With the winning run on second and an open base, he threw a fat slider that Sanchez hit into the Western Metal Supply Co. building. The catcher hit .240 with 10 homers in five years with the Giants. In two seasons facing them, he is 6 for 12 with three homers and eight RBI. Sanchez has four homers this season and two have come in the ninth inning against the Giants. A third came against Sergio Romo, his former teammate. 

You can add that to the long list of things that have gone wrong in this 2017 season. The list of things that have gone right is short, but the Giants can at least sleep easier knowing that Bumgarner will carry his usual heavy load every five days the rest of the season. 

Bumgarner was not ready to look that far down the line. He didn’t think big picture Saturday. He said he was happy to be back, but when asked about the remaining schedule, he shrugged. What does he want to accomplish?

“Win tomorrow,” he said. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”