Bumgarner becomes first pitcher to hit two homers on Opening Day

Bumgarner becomes first pitcher to hit two homers on Opening Day

PHOENIX — This collection of Giants is a confident group, but also a somewhat stoic one. They have plenty of fun behind closed doors, but this roster does not generally flip bats or engage in raucous dugout celebrations or skip off the mound. 

There was no hiding the emotion, however, when Madison Bumgarner hit his second homer Sunday. Some players in the dugout stared at Bumgarner, seemingly asking, “How the bleep did you do that?” Others smiled. Most laughed. 

“For us in the dugout, we’re just kind of shaking our heads,” catcher Buster Posey said. “It’s not supposed to be that easy. He kind of makes it look easy, but there’s a method to his madness. See what I did there? Mad-ness. He works at it. He takes it seriously.”

Bumgarner worked religiously this spring to improve his approach against breaking balls, and that seemed prudent his first time up. With a 3-2 count, Zack Greinke threw him a slider and then missed with a curveball that sent Bumgarner jogging down to first. It is the way Bumgarner has been pitched, even by the game’s best, for a couple of years, but if you make a mistake with your fastball, he is still waiting to pounce.

Greinke did in the fifth, and Bumgarner blasted a low liner into the seats in left, the ball never getting more than 55 feet off the ground. In the seventh, Andrew Chafin fell behind 2-0 and served one up at 92 mph. It left at 112 mph, landing 422 feet away. 

Bumgarner became the all-time franchise leader in homers for a pitcher (16) and extended his lead among active pitchers. He is the only pitcher to homer twice on Opening Day. He joined Giancarlo Stanton as the only MLB players to hit two homers at 112+ mph in one game during the Statcast era. 

“I try to be pretty level-headed and even-keeled,” he said. “Obviously it’s pretty special to do that, but my job out there is on the mound. That’s what my main concern is.”

Bumgarner was pretty dominant there, too. The man who is forever flirting with his first no-hitter took a perfect game into the sixth. The game unraveled quickly, but Bumgarner tipped his cap to A.J. Pollock, who took him deep to left for a two-run homer. 

The flurry did some damage to Bumgarner’s final line, but in his first start, at a park that plays the way Chase Field does with the roof open, he didn't do much wrong. Bumgarner was charged with three runs in seven innings. He struck out 11 and walked none while throwing 88 pitches. 

The most important number may have come on the radar gun. Bumgarner does not often worry about velocity, but an increase is a sign of proper mechanics, and after maxing out at 93.0 mph in 2016, he hit 94.3 on Sunday and repeatedly pounded fastballs that registered in the 94 mph range. 

“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. “That’s the adjustment in my delivery that I’ve been working on for a long time. It definitely was coming out good today.” 

After many of his starts the last two seasons, Bumgarner has insisted that his mechanics were not nearly as perfect as he wanted them to be. Asked on Sunday, he smiled and offered only that, “I’m a lot closer than where I was.”

“The struggle is once you get it, to keep hold of it and not lose it,” Bumgarner added. 

If this version of Bumgarner — with slightly cleaner mechanics and increased velocity — shows up all year, the Giants could once again have a Cy Young Award winner atop their rotation. If he keeps hitting for power, you’re talking about a potential MVP. Bumgarner has consistently added to his value on the mound with wondrous moments at the plate, and seven innings into his 2017 season, he’s already 40 percent of the way to his career-high for homers. In his first plate appearance, he added a walk.

“I was hoping his spot would come up again (before he was taken out) so he could get one more at-bat to go for three homers,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

The idea of a pitcher hitting three homers should be absurd. But teammates won’t rule anything out with Bumgarner, not after a day like Sunday. They’ve learned to stay out of the way and simply enjoy the show. 

“I just laughed,” first baseman Brandon Belt said. “You expect him to get one every once in a while. You don’t expect him to get two the first day. There’s not much you can say. I just laughed. It’s pretty cool to watch a pitcher do that.”

Bumgarner’s first multi-homer game put him in elite company. He joined Bob Elliott, Willie Mays, Matt Williams and Barry Bonds as Giants who have hit two homers on Opening Day. Speaking after a tough loss, he shrugged all that off, saying he tries to think along with the pitcher but he was fortunate to get pitches he could handle. 

“That’s something you look back on when you’re done playing,” he said of his historic day. “Right now, I’m not concerned about that.”

MLB rumors: News, updates, trade talk Monday from 2018 Winter Meetings


MLB rumors: News, updates, trade talk Monday from 2018 Winter Meetings

Executives, agents and even some players descend on the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas for the MLB Winter Meetings, starting Monday.

Roster construction, either through signings and/or trades, is the goal for many teams, and both Bay Area teams figure to be heavily involved. The Giants, with new president of baseball operation Farhan Zaidi, have numerous questions to answer, particularly in the rotation and the outfield. The A's also need rotation depth -- heck, they need a rotation, period -- and finding a second baseman and a catcher would be nice, too.

Keep it here throughout Day 1 of the Winter Meetings for the latest news, rumors and trade talk, as MLB teams reshape their rosters for the 2019 season.

7:08 p.m. PT: The Yankees ruled themselves out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, but that hasn't stopped "several teams" from meeting with the superstar in his hometown, according to Fancred's Jon Heyman.

Here's hoping the "mystery owner" is unmasked, Scooby Doo-style. They would've gotten away with the meeting, too, if it wasn't for those meddling reporters. 

6:38 p.m. PT: Giants fans can breathe easy that Paul Goldschmidt is out of the NL West, but that almost wasn't the case. The Colorado Rockies apparently pushed to trade for Goldschmidt, according to The Athletic's Nick Groke.

The only thing scarier than Goldschmidt raking against the Giants? Him doing it at Coors Field. 

6:04 p.m. PT: The Giants confirmed a trio of reported hires. 

Ricciardi was the Toronto Blue Jays' general manager for eight seasons (2002-09), then worked in the New York Mets front office as a special assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson for the past eight seasons.

Minasian worked with the Milwaukee Brewers for the last 14 seasons, and most recently as a special advisor for scouting in the Brewers' front office. Holmes worked alongside Zaidi in the A's front office, and was most recently their assistant scouting director. 

5:59 p.m. PT: Giants president of baseball operations Neal Huntington? It almost happened, according to the Pirates general manager himself. 

5:06 p.m. PT: For the second straight offseason, the Marlins are probably going to trade one of their best players. Miami dropped the asking price for catcher J.T. Realmuto, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman.

The Giants reportedly checked in on the All-Star catcher earlier in the offseason, even though they have an All-Star cather of their own. With a lower asking price, will the orange and black explore the possibility again? 

4:55 p.m. PT: The A’s could use some starting pitchers -- heck, they could use any starting pitchers. MassLive’s Chris Costillo dropped interesting tidbits on two bargain-bin options who might fit.

The A’s, of course, know Pomeranz well, as he pitched for them in 2014 and 2015 before they traded him to the Padres in the Yonder Alonso deal. His 2018 statline of a 2-6 record with a 6.08 ERA for the Red Sox might drop the left-hander’s price this offseason.

Oakland also knows Santana well from his eight seasons pitching for the rival Angels, from 2005 to 2012, although he’s about to turn 36, had a horrible 2018 and is showing significant signs of wear.

3:30 p.m. PT: While Yankees GM Brian Cashman all but ruled out the team adding Bryce Harper, he acknowledged he has spoken with the agent for free agent third baseman Manny Machado. The Yankees don't necessarily need a third baseman with Miguel Andujar in the mix, but they could use Machado at shortstop while Didi Gregorious recovers from Tommy John surgery.

3:26 p.m. PT: If you're a Yankees fan hoping the team will sign Bryce Harper, we have some bad news for you. What GM Brian Cashman just told reporters in Vegas pretty much squashed any thought that there is room for the outfielder on the Yankees' roster.

If you're a Giants fan holding out hope that Harper will come to San Francisco, knowing the Yankees aren't in the mix should make you feel good.

2:38 p.m. PT: The A's still would like to bring back second baseman Jed Lowrie, but if the sides can't come to an agreement, former NL batting champ D.J. LeMahieu could be an option. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the A's have expressed interest in the former Rockies second baseman.

1:15 p.m. PT: Former A's draft pick, Bishop O'Dowd and Cal alum Tyson Ross is headed to MoTown on a one-year, $5.75 million contract, according to The Athletic.

12:28 p.m. PT: Everyone needs their very own boomstick, and the Twins, Astros and Rays reportedly are in the mix for veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

The 38-year-old spent the last four seasons with the Mariners. The A's probably would like to see Cruz pick the Twins or Rays over the Astros, to get him out of the AL West.

11:36 a.m. PT: Earlier, Jon Morosi reported the Dodgers are involved in trade talks for Corey Kluber. Now we know what the Indians want as the headliner of the return: Dodgers No. 1 prospect Alex Verdugo. That would be a hefty price to pay, but the Dodgers are flush with outfielders at the major league level.

11:33 a.m. PT: New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made his first 40-man roster addition, as the Giants claimed 26-year-old outfielder Mike Gerber off waivers from the Tigers.

10:46 a.m. PT: In the aftermath of the Diamondbacks letting Patrick Corbin leave and trading Paul Goldschmidt, we wrote last Thursday that the A's should inquire about left-hander Robbie Ray. But according to USA Today, Arizona is telling teams the All-Star pitcher is not available.

10:41 a.m. PT: The Dodgers have won the NL West the last six seasons and made it to the Fall Classic the last two years. But they have yet to end their World Series drought, so could a big splash put them over the top? According to Jon Morosi, the Dodgers are involved in trade talks with the Indians regarding two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.

10:13 a.m. PT: The Tigers have a 26-year-old outfielder in Nick Castellanos who hit 49 homers over the last two seasons, and he's drawing trade interest, according to Jon Morosi. Could the Giants be interested? We're not sure, but it's an interesting name on the market.

9:36 a.m. PT: Manny Machado plans to show off his hustle by going on a Image Rehabilitation Tour Free Agent Tour! Will he stop by San Francisco or Oakland?

9:12 a.m. PT: Billy Hamilton reportedly will receive a total of $5 million in base salary and incentives from Kansas City.

8:15 a.m. PT: Will Farhan Zaidi move fan favorite Brandon Belt? According to USA Today, the first baseman is available, and several teams are interested.

7:56 a.m. PT: In previous offseasons, the Giants tried to acquire speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton from the Reds, but the sides never agreed to a deal. This winter, Hamilton was non-tendered by Cincinnati.

Now, it appears Hamilton has found a new home, as he's reportedly close to a deal with the Royals.

7:30 a.m. PT: We're not sure if Bryce Harper will meet with Farhan Zaidi and the Giants contingent in Vegas, but the top free agent on the market reportedly is warming up to the idea of playing for the White Sox. But is he really willing to go to a team that lost 100 games in 2018?

6:49 a.m. PT: The Arizona Diamondbacks finished third in the NL West, nine games ahead of the Giants, last season. That likely won't be the case in 2019. Patrick Corbin left in free agency. Paul Goldschmidt has been traded. And now, it appears the team is trying to trade ace Zack Greinke.

But that will be difficult because Greinke has a 15-team no-trade clause, and has put most big market teams on it, according to Jon Heyman.

Giants announce hiring J.P. Ricciardi, Zack Minasian, and Michael Holmes


Giants announce hiring J.P. Ricciardi, Zack Minasian, and Michael Holmes

Farhan Zaidi isn't done making over the Giants' front office. 

San Francisco announced hiring J.P. Ricciardi as a senior advisor to Zaidi, as well as Zack Minasian and Michael Holmes as the directors of pro and amateur scouting, respectively. 

Ricciardi was the Toronto Blue Jays' general manager for eight seasons (2002-09), and most recently worked as a special assistant to New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson for the last eight seasons. Prior to joining the Blue Jays, he worked for the A's for 16 years. 

[RELATED: Winter Meetings could be unpredictable for Giants under new leadership]

Minasian worked in a variety of roles in the Milwaukee Brewers' front office for nearly 15 years. Most recently, Minasian served as a special advisor focused on scouting. His father was the Rangers' clubhouse manager for over two decades, and his brother Perry is the Atlanta Braves' vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager. 

Holmes, meanwhile, worked alongside Zaidi in the A's front office from 2005-14. He was most recently Oakland's assistant scouting director, and held the title from 2009 onward.