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. 

Former Giant Gerardo Parra finds home with Nationals in World Series

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USATSI

Former Giant Gerardo Parra finds home with Nationals in World Series

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez answered nine questions during his press conference last week after the Nationals beat the Cardinals and clinched a spot in the World Series. By far the longest response came when Martinez was asked about a player who started this season with the Giants. 

Gerardo Parra was supposed to be a temporary outfield solution for the Giants, but he was designated for assignment on May 3, clearing a spot for Mike Gerber, who had gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. In Washington D.C., Parra has been exactly what the Giants hoped they were getting. 

The 32-year-old outfielder's stats don't jump off the page. He had a .747 OPS and eight homers in the regular season after catching on with the Nationals, who gave him 204 at-bats, about twice what he ended up getting in San Francisco. But Parra's energy has made a difference for a team that was 19-31 but recovered to take down the rest of the National League. 

The Giants at one point hoped to see the same in their own dugout. Parra and Yangervis Solarte were brought in during spring training and immediately injected a bit more life into a clubhouse that has too often relied solely on Pablo Sandoval's liveliness. They were popular in the clubhouse, serving as mentors for younger players and dancing in the dugout even as the Giants got off to a slow start. When the two were let go in early May, Bruce Bochy repeatedly called them "great guys." But the Giants couldn't justify any more at-bats for veterans in a season going nowhere. 

"As a player, it's a game of production," Bochy said at the time. 

The Nationals had plenty of it in their lineup, and Parra and others have helped keep the clubhouse on course during a surprise run. The Nationals dispatched of the Brewers, Dodgers and Cardinals and will begin the World Series tonight in Houston. 

Parra has just three at-bats during the postseason, but a late pinch-hit appearance in the NLCS clincher was one of the more memorable moments of the series. As they have done since Parra changed his walk-up music to "Baby Shark" in June, Nationals fans erupted when the veteran outfielder was announced. 

Martinez later joked that he only put Parra in the game to get the fans going in a tense spot. 

"What he's done in that clubhouse has really changed the way these guys go about their business," Martinez told reporters. "I mean, it was business ... he made it fun for this team."

The Giants hoped to latch on to that, but Parra served another purpose, as well. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi brought in several well-liked veterans on cheap non-guaranteed deals to try and keep the lineup afloat until reinforcements could arrive from Triple-A. 

Gerber was not the answer, and Mac Williamson's ensuing cameo didn't work either. But eventually most of the at-bats ticketed for Parra ended up being given to Mike Yastrzemski, a revelation who can serve as a full-time starter moving forward. 

That was never going to be Parra's role in San Francisco, but the Giants did try to work him in early as a versatile defender who could provide some production from the left side. It was impossible to keep him around, though, when he started the year with a .198 average through 30 games. 

Parra caught on with the Nationals shortly after the move and it couldn't have worked out better. He'll be in the dugout during a World Series game tonight, wearing his tinted sunglasses and giving massive hugs to young teammates and generally serving as a key glue guy for Martinez. Perhaps at some point over the next week, the Baby Shark routine will take over a key moment of the World Series. 

As he celebrated a pennant last week, Martinez recalled how Parra had met with him during a slump shortly after he joined the Nationals. The veteran was down because he wasn't hitting, but Martinez implored him to just bring energy, play loud music in the clubhouse, and keep pumping up a young team that had gotten off to a disappointing start. That's a message Bochy has given to Sandoval at times. 

[RELATED: Mark Kotsay enters Giants manager interviews as favorite]

"After that, he started hitting again, and he came back to my office a few days later and he goes, 'Hey, thank you. I didn't realize that I need to have fun, too,'" Martinez recalled. "I said, yeah, hey, bring it every day ... it's what you bring on and off the field that I care about, and he's that guy. Those guys up there, every one of his teammates love him -- love him. All the fans love him. He's just that guy. He's the Parra Shark."

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

MLB rumors: Mark Kotsay entered Giants manager interviews as favorite

As the Giants watch the World Series from home, their search for a new manager continues. Replacing a legend like Bruce Bochy won't be easy, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi can't wait forever. 

Interviews have begun, and the favorite coming into the process might be someone who would just have to switch sides in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Monday that "word around the industry is that [Mark] Kotsay entered this process as a favored candidate." One source also told Baggarly that he would be surprised if the Giants didn't hire Kotsay.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic first reported on Oct. 9 that the Giants would interview Kotsay, who currently serves as the A's quality control coach.

Kotsay, 43, had a 17-year MLB career where he spent four seasons -- 2004 through '07 -- as an outfielder for the A's. Zaidi was a baseball operations analyst in Oakland when Kotsay played for the A's. 

Kotsay retired after the 2013 season and became a special assistant in the San Diego Padres' front office the next season. He then served as the Padres' hitting coach for the 2015 season and was the A's bench coach in 2016. 

[RELATED: Could MadBum's ugly road stats hurt him in free agency?]

The Giants already interviewed in-house candidates Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus. The San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman and John Shea reported Monday that San Francisco also interviewed Cubs first base coach Wil Venable on Friday.

Other reported candidates include Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler