Joe Maddon thankful Cubs didn't have to face Johnny Cueto in Game 5

Joe Maddon thankful Cubs didn't have to face Johnny Cueto in Game 5

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- In an October 25 post on his team-run blog, shortstop Brandon Crawford said he didn't watch the NLCS. 

"The World Series starts tonight," Crawford wrote. "I won’t be watching."

Crawford was hardly alone in that respect. Many of the Giants avoided baseball in the weeks after a crushing NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs. In an interview with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday -- two months after his season ended -- manager Bruce Bochy said the defeat was the "toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of." There's little good that comes in looking back, and yet, the loss will forever be part of the organization's history. You take the bad with the good. It will also be a huge part of Chicago's story about the first title in 108 years. 

The Cubs have not forgotten how hard it was to cross the first hurdle. Those close to the team say the potential of having a Game 5 at home is brought up often within the organization. A Cubs executive said Joe Maddon mentioned Johnny Cueto during a front office gathering leading up to the Winter Meetings, saying he is still grateful that he didn't have to face Cueto and Madison Bumgarner in a must-win game at what would have been a nervous Wrigley Field. During his Winter Meetings press conference on Tuesday, Maddon again brought up that thought without being asked.

A reporter asked him what stood out about the World Series as Maddon drove home for the winter. He pivoted to a different round. 

"It wasn't that (the World Series), it was Game 4 against San Francisco," Maddon said. "We did not want to see Game 5. I thought facing Cueto in Game 5 would be the most difficult thing we had to do. I thought it was necessary that we won Game 4 in San Francisco to progress as well as we did. I was more focused on that win than anything else."

That won't help much for a Giants organization still feeling the sting of a blown three-run lead. To a man, from team executives to scouts to coaches to players, the Giants are sure that they would have won in Chicago with Cueto and Bumgarner throwing every pitch. Vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean confirmed Wednesday that Bumgarner was ready to reprise the role he played in Game 7 of the World Series two years ago. 

"Everything at that point was 'the kitchen sink' and we've seen Boch operate under those circumstances and we've seen our players step up," Sabean said.

The Giants always intended on pursuing Mark Melancon -- they tried at the trade deadline and came up short -- but the Game 4 collapse was the final straw. It became 100 percent clear that there was no other way forward. The Giants could not rely on in-house options or a second-tier free agent. Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million deal on Monday that the Giants hope will prevent another first-round exit. 

"It became pretty obvious to the ball club, obviously, and moreso our fan base," Sabean said. "It was our greatest need and a huge move ... You have to win the games you're supposed to win."

Giants prepare for life without Bumgarner: 'We just hope that someone can step up'


Giants prepare for life without Bumgarner: 'We just hope that someone can step up'

SACRAMENTO -- As the Giants took batting practice at Raley Field on Saturday afternoon, the scoreboard in center field offered an unfortunate reminder of their new reality. The River Cats are giving away Madison Bumgarner t-shirts on April 13, and the promotional material remains prominently displayed at their ballpark.

Bumgarner will be back here rehabbing at some point for a second straight summer, but it will be long after his giveaway day. A day after taking a line drive off his pitching hand, Bumgarner had surgery to have three pins inserted to stabilize his fractured fifth metacarpal. While manager Bruce Bochy said he hopes to get his ace back in two months, the Giants are internally preparing for a potential absence of 12 weeks. 

In the meantime, the rotation will be remarkably inexperienced. Ty Blach is slated to start opening day at Dodger Stadium, with Derek Holland -- a non-roster invitee -- and Chris Stratton pitching after Johnny Cueto. Because they have two early off days, the Giants will skip their fifth starter until April 10. 

The hope is that the fifth turn comes up just two or three times before Jeff Samardzija (strained pectoral) is healthy, so for now the Giants are leaning toward internal help. General manager Bobby Evans said no trades or signings were imminent. Prospects Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are the top candidates to fill out the rotation until Samardzija returns.

"They're both ready to help," Evans said.

So, too, are the rest of the Giants. The theme in the clubhouse Saturday was that the other 24 must keep the team afloat while Bumgarner heals. But there was no sugar-coating the magnitude of the blow.

"It's tough...Bum is irreplaceable," Brandon Crawford said. "We just hope that someone can step up and fill in for the time being."

Hunter Pence said the news was especially hard to hear because of how much work teammates watched Bumgarner put in this spring. The lefty appeared poised for a career year while dominating the Cactus League.

"It's unfortunate," Pence said. "We've got a lot of good position players and we have a good defense, and we've got to pull our weight until he gets back."

Bochy said Bumgarner was in good spirits despite losing a chunk of his season for a second straight year. The pins will be in his hand for at least four weeks, and then it's back to the rehab trail. 

"The good news that we got this morning is that they really felt good about the surgery," Bochy said. "He's such a tough guy. He handles this stuff well, he does. And I'll say this, for the six weeks out there in spring he looked as good as I've seen, and that's saying a lot. 

"He was throwing the ball beautifully so that's the thing that makes me sick about this too, along with we're losing our number one guy. But he's doing fine. It happens, unfortunately, in this game but what's important is how we all respond to it." 

Bumgarner undergoes surgery on pitching hand


Bumgarner undergoes surgery on pitching hand

A day after a line drive fractured a bone in his pitching hand, Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner underwent surgery to stabilize it.

A specialist in Arizona added three pins to Bumgarner's fifth metacarpal bone in his left hand on Saturday, the Giants announced. 

Bumgarner told reporters on Friday that the pins will remain in his hand for four-to-six weeks. Bruce Bochy told reporters on Saturday that the team does not expect Bumgarner to return until early June. 

The 28-year-old suffered the fracture in his final start of spring training, and was set to start Opening Day against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 29. In 21.0 innings over six appearances this spring, Bumgarner posted a 3.43 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.