MESA — The Giants and Cubs played in front of a Cactus League-record crowd of 15,849 human beings on Tuesday night, so in many respects this was as close as you can get to a big league atmosphere in mid-March. Throw in the fact that Sloan Park is one of the few in Arizona with a visible radar gun and this was a night to learn some things about the Giants.
First and foremost, Madison Bumgarner is ready for opening day.
Bumgarner gave up two solo homers in his five innings of work but was otherwise dominant, striking out seven and walking none. He was sitting at 93 mph in his final inning, a good sign for this time of year. Bumgarner has two starts remaining before his first of the regular season.
“I feel good. I feel no lingering anything,” he said. “I feel fresh. I feel like I’m right on schedule. Now it’s time to start dialing into game-type stuff.”
Bumgarner did that in a way identifiable to him. Ian Happ led off the game by blasting a fastball out to left field, and their next two matchups had a little extra juice. Happ was swinging so hard his second time up that his helmet popped off twice, and Bumgarner certainly noticed. After striking Happ out, he muttered a few words on the mound. When some Cubs started chirping from the dugout, there was a brief staring contest between Bumgarner and members of the home team.
Happ came up again in the fifth and swung from his heels at a first-pitch fastball. Bumgarner followed with a big slow curve that Happ was way ahead of, and later in the at-bat he put him away with another curveball. As Happ walked out of the batter’s box, Bumgarner gave a quick shake of the head.
The orneriness that is there so often during the regular season is getting dialed in, too, and Bumgarner even had a chance to show off another well-known trait. He was the first Giants pitcher to get an at-bat this spring, striking out against Tyler Chatwood, who dominated the Giants as he always has.
The radar gun allowed another Giant, one who has never seen the big leagues, to show his stuff. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, hit 100 mph with his second pitch and sat 98-99 the rest of a perfect inning. He struck out the first batter he faced on a 97 mph fastball. After allowing eight runs his first two times out, Fernandez has allowed two in his last three appearances, with five strikeouts in three innings. He is still a long shot to make the roster, but at the very least, he is showing why the Giants plucked him out of A-ball.
“We had to slow him down a bit (early in camp) … you see how amped up he is,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s gotten more and more comfortable out there. This was a good test for him, a night game against the Cubs and the park was packed. Tonight was I thought as close to a major league game as it gets (here) and he handled himself well.”