Giants

How Bruce Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner for advice when he's not starting

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AP

How Bruce Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner for advice when he's not starting

ATLANTA -- In the bottom of the ninth inning last Wednesday, the Giants got a walk and a single off then-Pirates closer Felipe Vasquez, inviting their fans back into the game as they attempted an unlikely comeback. As those remaining stood and cheered, Madison Bumgarner emerged on the top step of the dugout and stood to Bruce Bochy's right. 

Bochy turned to Bumgarner and had a quick conversation, and then both men focused their attention back to the field. As Austin Slater walked up for a pinch-hit appearance, the two spoke again. Bumgarner stood next to Bochy, a hoodie on, throughout the ninth, ending the conversation only a few seconds before the rally fell short. 

Part of the discussion was exactly what you might imagine. 

"It was, 'Listen, this guy throws really hard and has great stuff ... but you know I'm a great matchup for him,'" Bochy recalled, smiling. 

Bumgarner actually might have been as good a matchup as Bochy had for Vasquez. He once drew a walk off Aroldis Chapman, another lefty closer with similar stuff, and this season has two walks in two pinch-hit plate appearances. But most of the conversation wasn't about giving Bumgarner a shot. The two discussed Bochy's pinch-hit options, and as he has done often over the years, Bochy used his ace's advice as part of his decision-making process.

Bumgarner is famous in the clubhouse for the way he can read swings during a game. While his process has changed a bit over the years, he's still pretty old-school for the most part, watching where a hitter sets up in the box, the way he places his hands, and how he approaches different pitches. That has instructed the majority of Bumgarner's game planning over the years, and Bochy has taken advantage. 

"He's got a good feel for the game, he really does," Bochy said. "He watches the game and studies the game. He has a great feel. There's been a couple of times this year when he gets by me and we're talking strategy or a move or possibly who to use as a pinch-hitter. A couple of times I've used his advice. It's great because if it doesn't work, I can get on him."

Bochy used Bumgarner with Vasquez on the mound, asking him which right-handers on the bench he felt were the best matchup. It's a process that Bumgarner said started later in his career. He was curious to know what Bochy was thinking during games he wasn't starting. 

"I'd seen a lot of moves he made early in my career and they always seemed to work," Bumgarner said. "Granted, you've got to have the players to do that, too, but when I got comfortable enough with him and he made a move, I would ask him about it. If I was thinking something else or I was thinking the same thing, I would just ask him how he decided to do what he did. He would walk me through it and it helped me learn a lot about this game, also."

Asked how often he feels his advice has pushed Bochy in a new direction, Bumgarner paused for a moment and then frowned. 

"You know, it has, but I'm pretty sure it's whenever I say whatever he's already thinking," Bumgarner said. "A lot of times he'll ask me what I would do here, but most of the time he does the same thing that I say. But I think the only reason for that is that's what he was going to do anyway."

Coach Bumgarner has been a resource for Bochy, and the manager thought Bumgarner would be "great at it" if he ever wanted to coach or manage.

"You look at how he prepares for his games, reads hitters -- he can assimilate information very well," Bochy said.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Bumgarner on the top step, though. A large part of Bochy's job is briefing the media every day, and there's no chance Bumgarner would sign up for that gig. 

[RELATED: MadBum's road struggles continue before ace's free agency]

Instead, he'll enjoy his final week as an extra set of eyes for Bochy, trying to find an edge even on days when he's not starting. Bochy cherishes the interaction, in part because he knows what's usually coming at some point. He laughed when asked what kind of advice Bumgarner gave him as they went over options against Vasquez. 

"He said, 'I think you might want me to pinch-hit here,'" Bochy said. 

Giants add interesting arm on way out of Winter Meetings

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Giants add interesting arm on way out of Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- It'll be easy to tell when the Giants are once again elite on the field, but when it comes to the health of the minor league system and back end of the 40-man roster, the indicators aren't as clear to the public. One good measure of success will be the yearly Rule 5 Draft, which provides an opportunity for struggling clubs to add talent to their big league roster by raiding loaded systems. 

The Astros lost three prospects in the first 10 selections Thursday morning. The Yankees, Nationals and Rays also lost players during the first four picks. That's a sign of health for those organizations, of depth the Giants hope to build. They've made strides but they're still far behind, so on Thursday they once again were on the selecting end. 

A year after they took two players in the Rule 5, the Giants used their lone open roster spot on Dany Jimenez, a 25-year-old right-hander who pitched in the Blue Jays' system last year. Jimenez has a live arm and better command than you usually see from Rule 5 picks. The Giants will throw him in the bullpen mix but must return him to the Blue Jays if Jimenez is not on their big league roster.

"We were happy he fell to us," general manager Scott Harris said. "As we talked about all week, we're trying to find talent. We're trying to find new creative ways. This isn't the most creative way but we got an arm we like."

The Giants selected Drew Ferguson and Travis Bergen last December and later acquired Connor Joe, who was their opening day left fielder. Ferguson was sent back to the Astros during the spring and Joe ended up back with the Dodgers after a few games. Bergen lasted a few months but eventually was sent back to the Blue Jays. 

Jimenez has a strong shot at making the opening day roster and has a better shot than most Rule 5 picks of surviving. It's easier to hide a pitcher in your bullpen all year, particularly with the rosters expanding and the Giants able to carry 13 arms throughout the season. Jimenez also has more experience than Bergen did. He reached Double-A last season and dominated, posting a 1.87 ERA and striking out 46 in 33 2/3 innings. 

Harris said Jimenez has a fastball in the upper 90s. He has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors and has kept his walk rate on the high end of what's acceptable. That might play in the big leagues, giving the Giants a free reliever at a time when their bullpen is undergoing massive changes. 

The Giants did not lose a player in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. In the Triple-A phase, they added Brewers catching prospect Bryan Torres to the River Cats' roster. There was one other pick of note. Starting pitcher Stephen Woods was the fourth overall pick of the draft, going from the Rays to the Royals. Two years ago, the Giants sent Woods to Tampa Bay in the Evan Longoria deal. 

MLB rumors: Angels pursuing Madison Bumgarner during free agency

MLB rumors: Angels pursuing Madison Bumgarner during free agency

The Angels' search for an ace continues.

The Halos missed out on Southern California native Gerrit Cole, who couldn't turn down a reported record nine-year, $324 million contract from the Yankees. And Stephen Strasburg, who hails from San Diego, returned to the Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million deal. 

So, who will the Angels turn to now? They reportedly have their eyes on longtime Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. 

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Wednesday night that the Angels are pursuing MadBum, among other pitchers as well. 

Bumgarner reportedly is being courted by several teams -- including the Dodgers --  but NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Wednesday that the Giants still are in talks with the left-hander's camp. If Bumgarner does sign with the Angels, however, it not only would spell the era of an era in San Francisco, it would be bad news for the A's. 

[RELATED: Report: D-backs discussed offering MadBum $70M contract]

While Cole no longer is in the AL West, star third baseman Anthony Rendon reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $245 million contract to join the Angels after years of starring on the Nationals. The Angels now feature a lineup of Mike Trout, Rendon, Shohei Ohtani and some guy named Albert Pujols. 

Add an ace like Bumgarner could be the cherry on top for the Angels. It also would be another hurdle for the A's to clear in their path to winning the AL West.