Bumgarner expects to be ready to pitch Saturday, but what about hitting?

Bumgarner expects to be ready to pitch Saturday, but what about hitting?

SAN FRANCISCO — Madison Bumgarner was not too concerned about his nine-run rehab start last week, pointing out that he just left too many pitches over the plate as he worked to get his pitch count up. Told that the A-ball team was full of some promising Dodgers hitting prospects, Bumgarner smiled. 

“Apparently,” he said. 

He expects it to go a bit smoother tonight when he returns to San Jose to get that count up to around 90 pitches. For a third straight rehab start, however, Bumgarner won’t hit. The San Jose Giants use a DH, although manager Nestor Rojas was a bit tempted to give it up last week. 

This leads to an interesting question: Bumgarner believes he’ll be ready to pitch, but will he be ready to hit? It’s a question you would only really ask of one pitcher in Major League Baseball. 

“Hit, or hit well?” Bumgarner asked back. “I’ll be okay. Hitting actually felt better early on than pitching did.”

Bumgarner suffered a Grade 2 left shoulder sprain during a dirt bike accident in April, which means he had partial tears in his shoulder. The Giants have spent their energy on getting him ready to pitch. Trainer Dave Groeschner said there was never any concern about what swinging a bat — and Bumgarner does so powerfully — could do to his front shoulder going forward. 

“He’s been taking batting practice (for weeks) with no issues,” Groeschner said. “We held him back from hitting early on because throwing is more important, but there have been no issues. He hasn’t hit in a game yet but he ain’t holding back in BP.”

Bumgarner took swings while he rehabbed in Arizona and he returned to on-field BP on June 26. He looked like his usual self from the start. Despite missing most of the first half, Bumgarner is still tied with Adam Wainwright for the lead in pitcher homers (two). He has some work to do if he wants to give Jacob deGrom (10 hits, one homer) a run for the Silver Slugger, but the Giants believe he’ll be healthy enough to try and be his familiar presence, starting Saturday in San Diego. 

“He’ll be ready,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s just not going to see a lot of live pitching. As far as any risk of injury, we’ll be comfortable with the number of swings he’s gotten here.”

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.”