Giants

Bumgarner gets back to his old self after two-month layoff

Bumgarner gets back to his old self after two-month layoff

SAN FRANCISCO — Forget the standing ovations or “Fire on the Mountain.” Put aside the fastball that had David Peralta take a knee, the cutter that he turned to repeatedly, and the changeup that was so surprisingly sharp that Bumgarner threw a month’s worth of them on a whim

Here’s how you know Madison Bumgarner is back and feeling normal: He was pissed off that he didn’t get a run in during his second at-bat of the season. 

“You’ve just got to find a way to get a guy in,” he said of a fifth-inning confrontation with Patrick Corbin. “Bases loaded, no outs…there’s no excuse for it.”

Well, there is, and it’s not the fact that Bumgarner is a pitcher. He had just one at-bat during a two-start rehab assignment, and Corbin is a monster. But Bumgarner wouldn’t want to hear that. He is dangerous at the plate, even coming off a long layoff, and he was disappointed in his strikeout, one of three straight for the Giants in that big spot. 

There was little else to quibble with, though. Bumgarner scattered eight hits over six innings, didn’t walk any Diamondbacks, and struck out three. He got stronger as the night went on, but the Giants didn’t. They fell 3-2, wasting one opportunity after another against a scuffling Diamondbacks club. 

The Giants left 11 on base, three in that fifth inning, when Gorkys Hernandez and Buster Posey followed with strikeouts. Posey later flied out with the bases loaded, but came up with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Evan Longoria couldn’t finish the rally. 

That left Bumgarner with a loss, but this wasn’t a bitter night. After missing two months with a fractured pinky — “I can’t believe all this is over a pinky finger,” he would often say — Bumgarner returned to lead the rotation. He mixed in a new wrinkle, too, throwing 14 changeups, his most in nearly four years. 

“I had a good feel for it tonight,” he said. “More than I usually would. We started going to it and it was working. I’m trying to go out there and compete and adjust. I’m willing to change my gameplan.”

Bumgarner said he went changeup-heavy to offset the Diamondbacks’ aggressive swings, and that’s another way you know he’s feeling right. This night was not about getting his arm strength up. Facing hitters for just the third time since March, Bumgarner felt good enough to adjust and go for the jugular. He came up a bit short, but he was happy to be back out there trying to carry a heavy load. 

“That’s what I get paid to do,” he said. “It’s nice to earn your paycheck instead of stealing it.”

Why Josh Harrison would fit Giants but isn't perfect platoon partner

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Why Josh Harrison would fit Giants but isn't perfect platoon partner

With Farhan Zaidi now at the head of decision-making, the Giants want a more versatile roster. One player who fits the mold and has been linked to the Giants in recent months is Josh Harrison.

FanCred's Jon Heyman resurfaced the report Sunday, listing the Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Phillies and Rays as teams interested in the former Pirates second baseman. 

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said he will embrace platooning players, and second baseman Joe Panik consistently has been talked about as a player the front office will look at as a left-handed hitter in need of a right-handed partner. 

So, could Harrison be the answer? Yes and no. 

Harrison, 31, certainly is the kind of multi-positional player Zaidi covets. While he spent 87 of the 89 games he saw in the field at second base, compared to just two at third base in 2018, he has played five positions -- second, third, right field, left field and shortstop -- over his eight-year career. 

The Giants could use Harrison all over the field, but is he the right platoon partner at the plate with Panik? Not exactly. 

Panik hit just .191 against left-handed pitching last season, compared to .282 facing right-handers. But Harrison, a right-handed hitter, also struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. He had reverse splits, hitting .262 against right-handers and just .219 against left-handers in 2018. 

Harrison's splits very well could be an outlier, though, making him more intriguing to the Giants. He hit .286 against left-handers in 2017, and is a .279 career hitter against southpaws. 

They'll have to hope his 2018 season isn't a sign for things to come, but Harrison makes plenty of sense for the Giants to at least entertain adding the utility man.

Why Dodgers might pick A.J. Pollock over Bryce Harper in MLB free agency

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Why Dodgers might pick A.J. Pollock over Bryce Harper in MLB free agency

When the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Reds last month, it sparked speculation that the team was clearing space in its outfield to sign Bryce Harper.

What if it was for A.J. Pollock instead, though?

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that the Dodgers are interested in Pollock, who fits their player profile and needs in many ways.

Pollock has his issues -- he reportedly wants a five-year, $80 million contract, and he played more than 115 games just twice in seven seasons with the Diamondbacks. But, as Rosenthal noted, Pollock would provide the Dodgers with positional versatility and the right-handed bat they need. Harper, a lefty hitter who mostly plays right field, would do neither, and he’s rumored to be seeking a $300 million-plus deal.

While the Dodgers have big wallets, they could decide signing Pollock for about one-fifth the price of Harper is more prudent. That certainly would sit well with Giants fans, who don’t want to see their hated NL West rivals loading up for a run at a seventh consecutive division title.

And before you ask, no, Harper and/or Pollock aren’t options for the Giants, who also could use outfield help. It’s clear new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who came from the Dodgers, values sense more than dollars as he tackles the huge task of making the Giants contenders again.