Bumgarner looks ready for regular season in multiple ways


Bumgarner looks ready for regular season in multiple ways

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.”

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.”