SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nick Hundley, the Giants’ new backup catcher, has faced only two active pitchers more than 30 times: Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner. That’s not the easiest way to go through big league life, so Hundley appreciated the opportunity to work with Bumgarner in Friday’s Cactus League opener.
“I’d much rather catch him than hit him, that’s for sure,” Hundley said, smiling.
The two lined up together because Buster Posey will work with Matt Cain and Mark Melancon on Saturday. Hundley likely won’t see much time with Bumgarner during the regular season. Posey caught all but 10 of Bumgarner’s innings last year, but Hundley, the veteran backup won’t be out of place if he’s called on. He pleased Bumgarner on Friday by smothering a first-inning curveball in the dirt with a runner on third.
“That’s a tough pitch to block,” Bumgarner said. “A backdoor curveball and I pulled it a little bit. I’m sure that caught him off guard. I was impressed by it. That was pretty good.”
Hundley similarly impressed another pitcher Friday. Clayton Blackburn said he shook Hundley just once while throwing two perfect innings. The rapport with a prospect he has never played with was no accident. When Hundley signed with the Giants, he asked video coordinator Yo Miyamoto to send him clips of every pitcher on the 40-man roster, as well as prospects.
“I don’t want to come in blind,” Hundley said. “I want to watch and observe and put these guys in the best possible position to succeed.”
Hundley noted that guys like Blackburn are working hard to break through, and they don’t need to be held back by a new catcher. He has been watching video on a team-designed app to continue the learning process.
“They’ve had so much success for so long (here) that it’s my job to get on the same page with them,” Hundley said.
Bumgarner felt they were in sync, but the results weren’t perfect the first time out. Bumgarner pitched an inning, giving up two hits and two earned runs. He walked one and hit a batter.
There was, of course, absolutely no concern. It’s February. He’s Madison Bumgarner. Friday was simply about getting back on a mound. Asked how he felt in his debut, Bumgarner smiled.
“I felt,” he said.