Bumgarner enters Game 7 vs Royals: 'Like John Wayne was coming out'


Bumgarner enters Game 7 vs Royals: 'Like John Wayne was coming out'

SAN FRANCISCO — A sellout crowd didn’t immediately leave the park after Game 5 of the 2014 World Series. Madison Bumgarner had just thrown a 119-pitch shutout, and the fans stood in front of their seats, chanting “MVP” and waving orange rally towels as Bumgarner twice stopped and tipped his cap during an interview for the national TV broadcast.

Nobody knew what was coming three nights later, and it didn’t matter. What Bumgarner had already accomplished was historic, and even the Kansas City Royals, a loss from elimination, could recognize that.

As Bumgarner finished his final on-field interview, Royals manager Ned Yost and a PR representative crossed the field so they could enter AT&T Park’s interview room through the home dugout. Yost saw Bumgarner going up the dugout steps and called out to him.

“Hey kid,” he yelled. “Great game.”

Bumgarner didn’t hear him, and Yost called out again. This time Bumgarner turned around. The 59-year-old manager congratulated the 25-year-old ace for all he had accomplished that month.

“You know what?” Yost told Bumgarner. “I sure am glad I don’t have to see you again.”

Bumgarner smiled.

“I think I just laughed it off,” he said last week. “But I was thinking in my head, ‘Man, I don’t know if that’s so true or not.’”

Bumgarner came out of the bullpen in Game 7 and threw 68 pitches over five innings, strangling the life out of a deep lineup that would win the World Series a year later. He carried the Giants to a third World Series title in five seasons. He was named Sportsman of the Year and became a national star. If his career continues on this trajectory, the save in Game 7 will be the moment most often mentioned during his Hall of Fame speech.

On Wednesday, Bumgarner will return to that mound at Kauffman Stadium, but the trip to the rubber will start in the dugout, not the visiting bullpen. As the Giants prepared to return to the site of one of the sport's great postseason performances, they looked back on the moment the bullpen gate swung open and a big left-hander from North Carolina made the impossible look so easy ... 

MANAGER BRUCE BOCHY: “It was going according to the game plan. I just wanted to get through that (fourth) inning so we could have him ready where I wouldn’t have to bring him in in the middle of an inning. I remember going through that so many times before the game in our heads, and with Rags, about how we wanted this to play out if the starter wasn’t out there.”

PITCHING COACH DAVE RIGHETTI: “It was going to be special, because even in our day, these things didn’t happen. You watch the old Yankees highlights from the 50s and 60s and their starters went out of the ‘pen and ended up doing a lot of pitching, but we kind of got away from that. I did that in 1981, pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh, and I think Bum knew about that. We had spoken about it. He knew he was going to pitch somewhere in the middle of the game because of their left-handed hitters. They didn’t want to flip them too early because we had right-handers left in the bullpen.”

RIGHT FIELDER HUNTER PENCE: “I talked to him before the game. He said something like, ‘It’s just a matter of mind.’ He was like, ‘I don’t know why it can’t be done. You’ve just got to make your mind up.’”

BROADCASTER DUANE KUIPER: "He was as personable as he’s ever been in the dugout before that game. It was like he had pitched the day before and he wasn’t going to pitch that day so he could just have fun. He was taking pictures and he was laughing. I remember it vividly. I also remember he was the only player on the (late) bus going to the Wild Card Game last year and he slept. Slept! Going through that tunnel in New York, he just fell asleep. He woke up at the right time." 

FIRST BASEMAN BRANDON BELT: “I couldn’t believe he was coming out again but at the same time I had the utmost confidence that he would do it again in that game. I felt there was no doubt in my mind that he could do that (but) I figured he might come in and pitch like an inning at the most.”

BULLPEN COACH MARK GARDNER: “We already had it planned out pretty much for the whole game, what scenarios we had. It was expected.” 

CATCHER BUSTER POSEY: “I was thinking, man, if we can get him through the seventh that would be great.”

SECOND BASEMAN JOE PANIK: “We all kind of knew what the situation was. If we got a lead that night, it was Madison Time.”

RIGHETTI: “A starter doing that, most of the time it fails. I can remember a lot of failures with a starter going out there and trying to help out and you always in that case want a reliever. But the way he had pitched against them in that series, we thought it was demoralizing, too (for the Royals), just to get him out there and in a game.”

BENCH COACH RON WOTUS: “It was all planned out. It felt like we had not a secret weapon, but an atomic bomb. We knew we had him coming in and we didn’t expect him to finish the game, but you also don’t expect him not to. It was like we were playing poker and we were sitting on a royal flush.”

A night earlier, Bumgarner had drawn the biggest crowd in a clubhouse still processing a 10-0 loss that had “The K” shaking. He had been available for a hitter or two in Game 6, and for several minutes afterward, he patiently answered questions about his availability in Game 7. He shrugged when asked what his pitch count would be. “Maybe 200? I don’t know,” he said. “As long as you get outs, I feel pitch counts are overrated.” As the waves of reporters kept coming, Bumgarner finally was asked about his close friend, Game 7 starter Tim Hudson. His eyes lit up and he nodded appreciatively at the reporter. “I couldn’t be any more excited for him,” he said. 

The Giants knew, however, that Hudson was practically taped together at that point. The plan was for Jeremy Affeldt and Bumgarner to get the ball to to the eighth, where Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla could take over. Bochy and Righetti thought Bumgarner could stretch out to around 70 pitches. The concern was not the end of his night, but rather the beginning. Bumgarner’s routine usually includes more than an hour of pre-start work, half of it in the weight room and half of it on the field.

TRAINER DAVE GROESCHNER: “He’s a very regimented guy when he starts. We did a few things before the game and then we knew he was going to start a fresh inning, so he could do some of his warmup in the bullpen. He did his normal stretching routine like he does before a start, even though he was going to go sit down there for a while. We stretched him out. He does a great job with that stuff, he’s super-conscious of all of that. He spends 25-30 minutes in the weight room doing that stuff every game. He takes over the weight room and does his form running and stretching inside. Over the last few years, he’s gotten into that and he does it all in there. It’s impressive to watch. He’ll do that 35 times a year. He’s got a sheet that he puts down and he just goes down the sheet, one-by-one.”

BOCHY: “My only concern was would he have enough time. He has a pretty long routine that he goes through, and it’s just different when you’re in the bullpen.”

BULLPEN CATCHER TAIRA UEMATSU: “We didn’t do anything special. His stuff was mostly the same stuff he does before the game and between starts. He has a routine that he always does and he was doing just that. I knew he was going to do well when he was doing all the same stuff as usual.” 

GARDNER: “I felt pretty comfortable with him going out there. He’s got his own way of doing things and he’s very independent in that sense. He got right after it in the bullpen.”

RIGHETTI: “As a pitching coach, my only concern was I know what kind of warm-up he normally has. He pitched out of the bullpen before for us in the playoffs in 2010 but still, that was four years later. He really got into a routine the last four or five years. He’ll go out 35-40 minutes before his start and do his thing. My biggest fear was, ‘Is he going to be warmed up enough?’ I know the adrenaline will take care of a lot, but you think you’re warmed up and you’re really not. That was honestly my concern. I gave Gardy a heads up that Jeremy is going back out (for the fourth) so now Bumgarner has got to think about getting ready. I left it up to him based on how his arm feels and how much he was going to throw. That was my number one concern, no question about it, and also whether he would have all three pitches ready.”

MADISON BUMGARNER: “I’ll tell you what, they know what my deal is that I do before I start a game and they made it clear I was going to come in with a clean inning. All I asked was to have enough time. Tell me in plenty enough time if you have an ideal inning that I’m coming into, so I can start ... and they did NOT do that. I had to rush through my warmup. I had to rush through it while trying to not rush through it. I went through it a little faster than I wanted, but I did finish in time.”

At times that night, Bumgarner got up and watched the game while leaning up against the bullpen fence, just as Tim Lincecum had done in Cincinnati two years earlier. As Affeldt faced Mike Moustakas with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and the Giants leading 3-2, Bumgarner sat down between Ryan Vogelsong and Jean Machi. He patted Vogelsong on the leg and then draped his left arm around Machi’s shoulders. 

At 8:46 p.m., Bumgarner got up and started throwing to Uematsu, with Gardner watching closely a few feet away. When Kelvin Herrera froze Posey to end the top of the fifth, Bumgarner tugged his belt into place and started walking toward the gate. At 8:54 p.m., he pulled his cap tighter, took eight big steps out of the bullpen, ducked his head and went into a slow jog toward the mound.

BOCHY: “I just remember the presence. It was like John Wayne was coming out of the bullpen.”

THIRD BASE COACH TIM FLANNERY: “It looked like a gunslinger, like Josey Wales coming out of a bar. I was two-thirds of the way down the dugout rail and these two (Royals fans) kept yelling ‘Give us Bumgarner! Give us Bumgarner! As soon as we went ahead and we knew he was coming out, these guys were yelling it again: ‘Give us Bumgarner!’ I turned around and yelled, ‘You’re getting him now mother——————!’”

PANIK: “I just remember watching him come out of the pen. It’s very rare to see him do that, the first time I’ve ever seen it. He’s got the slow jog going. It just gave you a sense of confidence knowing that he was coming to shut the door.”

PENCE: “It was a slow trot, very steady. It was just like, ‘Here we go!’ He was outstanding the whole series and it was historic, and it was just wild that he was coming back on such short rest. It was like, ‘Here we go, let’s see what we got.’ You slowly witnessed the loud crowd get quieter and quieter and quieter. He pretty much just calmed the storm. There was no emotion. He was just dialed in. He was locked in.”

RIGHETTI: “There were two places where you could tell with the sound. Timmy, pitching in Cincinnati, when he came out of the bullpen and they were still rabid because they had knocked our starter out and as he kept going it got quiet. That was one. I don’t know why those two memories of the crowds stand out. When Bum came out, as it grew, it was the same sound as with Timmy. That din that you heard before, the constant loud on top of the fake music, it went away.”

WOTUS: “I went back and watched it that offseason. They showed the crowd and the faces of fans. It confirmed it. There are guys who have an impact on players, but he had an impact on the stadium and the fans, which you don’t see so often.”

BOCHY: “Here’s this big man who has just had this unbelievable postseason. It just seemed like it sent a sense of confidence through our club, and along with that, you could kind of hear the crowd go, ‘Oh no, here he is.’”

POSEY: “My biggest memory is more auditory than visual. Out of any place I’ve ever been, the energy and life seemed to be sucked out of the crowd. There was a quiet and you could tell there was a nervous energy that kind of came over them. I think it’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life, because it was a really cool moment. It just seemed like however many people were there kind of said, ‘Oh crap, this guy again. We didn’t think we’d see him again.’”

BUMGARNER: “You know, a lot of people said that to me, but I didn’t realize that it got any quieter.”

FLANNERY: “He told everyone behind him, he looked at the guys in the bullpen, and said ‘You’re not going to need your gloves tonight. You’re not pitching. You can put those gloves away.’”

RELIEVER HUNTER STRICKLAND: “I don’t remember that part, but I wouldn’t be surprised. During the Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, it was the ninth inning and I got up and started to warm up and get hot. He’s on the mound in the middle of the game and he turns around, looks at the bullpen, holds his arm up and signals for me to sit down. In the middle of the game. It was awesome. That’s Madison.”

Brandon Belt sidelined by heel pain as Giants' MLB opener approaches

Brandon Belt sidelined by heel pain as Giants' MLB opener approaches

On the first day of intrasquad games the Giants were without two key players, and another was slightly limited. 

Gabe Kapler said Brandon Belt is out at least five to seven days with right heel pain. Hunter Pence took his swings Wednesday but did not play the outfield because he has minor foot pain, though the Giants expect him to be a full go soon. Buster Posey missed the day with the same personal issue that caused him to miss Friday's workout. 

Belt's pain, which he has had in the past, is by far the most concerning. The Giants have just 15 days until their opener at Dodger Stadium and their starting first baseman is in a walking boot. Kapler said it was “premature to make an assessment" for the opening series. He said he spoke with Belt and the first baseman was confident he would be okay. 

If Belt is not ready by opening day, the Giants do have some first base depth. Wilmer Flores, Pablo Sandoval and Darin Ruf all could handle starts there. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Belt had been working out with Group 2, which includes Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Posey and Donovan Solano. The Giants played a simulated game in the afternoon at Oracle Park, but they did not have players stationed at every position. Because they generally had infielders set up for every inning, coaches took turns fielding at first base. 

[RELATED: Watch Luciano hit monster home run in live BP]

Belt spoke with the media on Sunday and expressed optimism about the upcoming season. He said he feels good about safety protocols put in place and has talked to several doctors about whether this plan is a good idea. Belt also said he was excited about the short season.

"It could be a year that maybe a team that wouldn't get in otherwise gets in and they go on a hot streak and maybe win the World Series," Belt said. "Our goal is the same no matter if we're playing 162 or 60 -- we're playing to win ballgames and get in the playoffs and ultimately win a World Series."

Watch Giants prospect Marco Luciano hit monster home run in live BP

Watch Giants prospect Marco Luciano hit monster home run in live BP

The Giants held an intrasquad game featuring many of their regulars on Wednesday afternoon, but it seems the real action was seen in the morning. 

Marco Luciano, the organization's top prospect, has shown in workouts over the past week why he's one of the top 20 prospects in baseball, and on Wednesday the Giants gave fans a taste of Luciano's power:

Reminder: That's the swing and physique of a shortstop who won't turn 19 until September. Luciano signed out of the Dominican Republic two years ago and made an impact in his pro debut last year, batting .302/.417/.564 in 47 games with 10 homers and 13 doubles. 

"Kind of taller -- little lanky, still -- not fully mature in the lower half, but incredibly twitchy," manager Gabe Kapler said on KNBR earlier this week. "Incredibly athletic and rangy to both his left and his right. In the batter's box, (he has) a high level of comfort and confidence."

Luciano likely would have spent much of this season with High-A San Jose, but now he'll get two months of extra work with more experienced players in Sacramento, along with this early time in big league camp. The Giants will reevaluate their prospects in the offseason, but Luciano has the look of someone who will move extremely quickly. There are plenty of scouts who believe he'll be a top-five prospect in all of baseball by next spring. 

[RELATED: Three interesting observations about Giants' 60-game slate]

Kapler has talked a couple of times this week of how impressive the younger Giants have been. Luciano is part of a group that includes Joey Bart, Patrick Bailey, Heliot Ramos, Alexander Canario and Wilson. Kapler said that group is often making Oracle Park "look small."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]