Giants' Aramis Garcia hopes to return this season after hip surgery


Giants' Aramis Garcia hopes to return this season after hip surgery

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Aramis Garcia's brief time with Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League confirmed what he might have previously thought about Hunter Pence's stint there a year ago. 

"He's like a legend over there, pretty much," Garcia said Thursday, laughing.

Unfortunately, Garcia's time in the D.R. also confirmed the fears that first popped up last summer, when he felt discomfort in his hip. Garcia hoped to use winter ball as a springboard to the Giants' Opening Day roster, but the pain in his right hip was so intense that he lasted just 12 plate appearances before returning to the United States. 

Last week, Garcia underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum. He currently is on crutches and is expected to miss six to eight months. Garcia said anti-inflammatories knocked out the pain last summer and he felt great all fall and into the winter. But when the pain returned, he knew this time something was different. 

"I had a feeling when I was in the D.R. that this is where it was headed," he said. "I've never felt that kind of pain on a baseball field before. I had a feeling that it wouldn't end well."

Hip surgery is a setback for a player of any stature. Buster Posey had a similar procedure with the same doctor -- Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo., -- late in the 2018 season and wasn't back to full strength last year. Zach Green also was set back by hip surgery last year. 

But for Garcia, the timing particularly was brutal. A year after the Giants acquired Erik Kratz just before camp as a bridge to Stephen Vogt, they were set to let Garcia and others compete for the backup job. Garcia would have entered camp as the frontrunner, and he was excited about the progress he was making early in the winter. 

Garcia is less than a week removed from surgery, and it was clear he has chosen to take the optimistic path and not focus on the lost opportunity. He said his procedure was slightly less serious than Posey's, and he's not looking at it as season-ending. 

"Because it happened early, I have a chance to come back this year," he said. 

The front end of the timeframe would put Garcia back on a field in August. At some point the Giants will put Garcia on the 60-day Injured List and add another catcher to the 40-day roster -- currently it's just Posey and Garcia -- but if he is able to return by August, there still would be time to join the roster as a third catcher in September. That would be a nice reward for a player who has had awful injury luck throughout his career. 

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For now, Garcia will rehab at the facility in Scottsdale. The competition will go on without him, but Gabe Kapler said the new staff will make sure Garcia is involved. Kapler recalled how he tore his Achilles in 2005 and came to camp the next year feeling like an outsider.

"We have to surround him with that support and then remind him of his goals, and his goals are to be ahead of schedule," Kapler said. "That's always a good goal for players rehabbing, to beat the timetable."

Madison Bumgarner admits he has rodeo alias, competed while on Giants


Madison Bumgarner admits he has rodeo alias, competed while on Giants

Madison Bumgarner no longer is a Giant, but his legend keeps growing. 

The longtime San Francisco left-hander signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency this winter after a decade-long orange-and-black tenure defined by epic postseason performances, horseback rides into the Oracle Park outfield and the revelation he once dated a girl named Madison Bumgarner. His latest disclosure undoubtedly tops the list.

The Athletic's Zach Buchanan and Andrew Baggarly revealed Sunday that Bumgarner has competed in multiple rodeos under the alias "Mason Saunders," and "Saunders" confirmed it was all true in an interview with the outlet. 

“Oh boy,” Bumgarner told Buchanan and Baggarly when they showed Bumgarner a photo of him from a Dec. 3 rodeo where he won $26,560 in a team-roping competition. “This is ruining my alias.”

The photo was taken just under two weeks before Bumgarner signed with the Diamondbacks, and the ace also admitted he competed in an event in March 2019 while he was still with the Giants. That event, according to Buchanan and Baggarly, came two days before he made a start in Spring Training against the Oakland A's and just under two years after the Giants placed him on the disabled list following an off-day dirt-bike accident in Denver.

Bumgarner missed nearly three months that season, making just 17 starts. He did tell the Wrangler Network in 2014 that he ropes right-handed, however, and he told Buchanan and Baggarly that the alias was more about avoiding attention than keeping secrets from his former and current employers.

He used an alias, but this is still ultra-competitive Madison Bumgarner we're talking about. 

“No matter what hobbies I have, I take ‘em serious,” Bumgarner told Buchanan and Baggarly. “That’s just my personality. I don’t do anything just for fun, per se. I wish I did.”

[RELATED: Top Giants prospect Hjelle lights it up in his spring debut]

Bumgarner will make his first visit to Oracle Park since signing a five-year, $85 million contract with Arizona on April 6 when the Diamondbacks visit San Francisco for a four-game set. 

Some bitter Giants fans might relish the chance to address the 30-year-old and the horse he rode out on, but they probably didn't know how real the euphemism was until Buchanan and Baggarly got the scoop.

Giants prospect Sean Hjelle shines, lights up radar gun in spring debut

Giants prospect Sean Hjelle shines, lights up radar gun in spring debut

MESA, Ariz. -- With the Giants nursing a one-run lead in the eighth inning Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler called right-handed prospect Luis Madero into the game. As Madero faced the A's, Sean Hjelle started warming up in the bullpen. Kapler saw Hjelle getting loose and called down to make sure he knew he was getting the ninth, not part of the eighth. 

"He was the one pitcher today who got loose before we told him to get loose," Kapler said, smiling. 

The 22-year-old, picked one round after Joey Bart in the 2018 draft, was excited to make his spring debut for the big league club and hid any butterflies. Hjelle is known for standing 6-foot-11 and having uncanny command and body control for a pitcher that size. But he came out throwing 95 mph and bumped 96 in a perfect inning, closing out a 5-3 win that clinched Kapler's first handshake line in orange and black. 

"As much as we're excited by his stuff, we're also excited by him pounding the strike zone," Kapler said. "That's certainly encouraging to see him come out there in this situation, certainly a nerve-wracking situation, and fill up the zone with his fastball."

Hjelle, the organization's top pitching prospect, reached Double-A last season and could debut this year. It was one inning and he was amped up, but the ceiling certainly will get a bit higher if he's sitting 95 in the future instead of the low 90s. The Giants always have felt there was more velocity in that massive frame. 

Here are four more observations from the first 18 innings of the Kapler Era ... 

--- There was a new whiteboard up in the clubhouse this morning with a bunch of circles and a spot for each game this spring. A photo of a beaming Austin Slater was glued inside the first circle, making him the "baserunning BOSS" from Saturday's game. The Giants have put a heavy emphasis on leads and turns this spring and the new staff has identified that as one area they can gain an edge. One player will be recognized after every game. 

We'll see if it works. This isn't a roster with much speed, but guys were aggressive Sunday and it led to a couple runs. Kapler credited first base coach Antoan Richardson for his work thus far. 

"We really want them to push the envelope," he said. 

--- Kapler has been hesitant to offer many public criticisms, but when asked about Derek Rodriguez the other day, he immediately mentioned that the staff needed to see more velocity from the starter/reliever heading into his third season. Rodriguez's average fastball dropped from 91.6 to 90.7 year over year. Rodriguez pumped a few 93s in his first inning of the spring and generally sat at 92, a positive sign this early.

"The first day of the spring, I'm happy about that," he said. 

Rodriguez said he took just two weeks off in the offseason -- to plan for his wedding -- and then got to work on mechanical changes. He made three Winter League starts and was encouraged by how he felt there. 

--- When Max Muncy came up early in Saturday's game, Evan Longoria shifted over to the right side but he didn't stand where he would last year. Longoria played kind of behind the first baseman, with Donovan Solano playing up the middle behind the bag. Last year the Giants had Longoria shift over between the second baseman and shortstop; this year he's between the second baseman and first baseman. It makes a lot more sense this way, allowing the actual second baseman to stay close to the bag where he might have to make a turn.

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--- Some early standouts, aside from Mauricio Dubon and Joey Bart, who homered Saturday: Matt Carasiti, a non-roster invite who struck out the side in his lone inning and got A.J. Pollock and Kiké Hernandez ... Abiatal Avelino, who hit a laser onto the berm in left on Sunday ... Kean Wong, who had two hits and showed his speed ... Finally, Rob Brantly, who has brought constant energy to camp and capped Sunday's game by yelling "Never in doubt!" as the Giants celebrated a spring win. Every team needs a quirky backup catcher, right?