Giants

Madison Bumgarner could be back sooner than expected

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USATSI

Madison Bumgarner could be back sooner than expected

PITTSBURGH -- Madison Bumgarner needed four rehab starts last season before a return to the big leagues. The Giants have already discussed cutting that way back this time, with him possibly needing just one or two. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said Bumgarner's flat-ground work has been so impressive that he won't need as much minor league time as a year ago. But there's something else at play here, something left unsaid. 

The standard for the rotation right now is not very high. The Giants haven't had a starter complete six innings since last Saturday, and too many starts are ending after the fourth. Couldn't Bumgarner do that as he works to build arm strength? Yes, yes he could, and those innings would likely be crisper than the ones Bochy is getting now. 

Bumgarner will throw a bullpen session Monday in San Francisco. He will face hitters when the Giants are in Houston the next week. He is eligible to return on May 26, and Bochy said he won't need much more time than that. 

"It's going to be close," he said. "That's how well he's throwing the ball. If his pitch count is around 75 in that (rehab start) he could make a start here, similar to what we did with Shark. We'll fill in with the bullpen instead of taking another (rehab) start to get up to 100 pitches. we'll see where we're at and how he's feeling."

--- Alen Hanson isn't feeling great. His tight left hamstring is still sore, and he's day to day (like all of us, technically). Bochy wasn't sure if Hanson would be available off the bench today. Evan Longoria is the choice to move to short or second if the Giants are in a jam. 

--- Derek Law walked into the clubhouse Sunday morning in a walking boot, which was interesting because he was optioned to the minors while the Giants were still in Philadelphia. Law tweaked his ankle while hitting the bag on a grounder against the Phillies. It's not considered serious, but it made sense to keep him around. He's from Pittsburgh, so he spent the weekend here and he'll fly back to San Francisco with the team before driving to Sacramento. 

Unsung heroes step up as Giants avoid another meltdown against Marlins

Unsung heroes step up as Giants avoid another meltdown against Marlins

SAN FRANCISCO — Can a series victory leave you feeling more concerned about a team than you were when it started?

The Giants tested that possibility for 27 innings this week against the rebuilding Marlins, taking two of three in a series that contained way too much drama, an unnecessary beanball war with an inferior opponent, self-inflicted damage on and off the field, and one last attempt at blowing a lead. 

When it was over, though, there was a handshake line, and there was confidence. First baseman Brandon Belt, who was in the middle of many of the good things the Giants did in a 6-5 win, said he still believes this team has an “it factor.” 

“It seems like we have that, in my perspective,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with unsung heroes.”

We will get to them in a moment, but first … “it factor”?

“We didn’t have the ‘it factor’ last year, just so you know,” Belt said, smiling. “For frame of reference.”

These Giants may yet have a run in them. Perhaps they’ll get Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto back and take off, and we’ll all look back on this as a strange three-day set with a team the for whatever reason has the Giants’ number. If they do reach any sort of glory, it will be because they survived with newfound depth. As Belt said, there are unsung heroes here. 

--- Derek Holland: After his last start in Los Angeles, Holland chastised himself for not going deeper into the game. He did so again Wednesday, despite pitching into the seventh. Holland was charged with three earned in six-plus. Forget the ERA; he has been a reliable presence for a rotation mostly lacking them. 

“I’ve got to keep continuing to use this moomentum,” he said. “I feel I’m progressing.”

--- Holland was on deck when Gorkys Hernandez won a lengthy battle with Jose Ureña, the hard-throwing righty who was so tough on the Giants until a five-run sixth. Hernandez is playing through a painful rib bruise that he suffered in Washington D.C. It flares up on certain swings, and he can’t hide his grimace at times. But that didn’t stop him from taking Ureña’s 14th pitch of the at-bat into right field for a two-run single that put the Giants up 5-1. 

“I just kept yelling at him, ‘Keep going, baby! Let’s go!,’” Holland said.

The Giants have roster issues in the outfield that they’ll need to come to grips to at some point. Perhaps they would have made a move had they dropped Wednesday’s game. But Hernandez is safe as the center fielder. The hit raised his average to .285, and it would be needed. 

“That was the key in the game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He really grinded out that at-bat, 14 pitches, and just came through with a huge hit there.”

--- Ty Blach was the opening day starter. Here is his last week: 6 2/3 innings of relief dominance in a 16-inning win last Thursday; a clean sixth inning in a win last night; a perfect eighth inning to hold a three-run lead Wednesday. Yes, Blach was the setup man for the day, and he excelled. He always seems to when Bochy throws him a new role. 

“He’s always stepping up,” Holland said. “That’s the huge thing he needs to get credit for.”

Holland noted that Blach never complains when moved around. He just does his job. On Monday night, after the blown win, Blach ran laps around the outfield at 10:30 p.m., getting his conditioning in. Two days later, he got the ball to Sam Dyson. 

--- Dyson didn’t end the game with the ball in his right hand. He was pulled after giving up two runs — Hernandez didn’t help by losing a ball in the sun — and putting two more on. So, Reyes Moronta entered and got a strikeout for his first career save. Moronta, a 25-year-old rookie, has a 1.91 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He has been one of the more underrated players for a team that's still in the NL West race. 

“You’re forced at that point to make a move,” Bochy said. “Reyes has done some closing in the minor leagues and he’s got the equipment to do it.”

Perhaps, before long, Moronta will be closing up here. It’s a possibility that seemed far-fetched when the Giants returned home, but then Hunter Strickland tried to put his fist through a door. A lot happened to the Giants this week, but when the series was over, Moronta was pumping his fist and the rest were joining him to shake hands. 

Derek Holland deals, Giants erupt in sixth to escape Marlins and secure series win

Derek Holland deals, Giants erupt in sixth to escape Marlins and secure series win

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The most dramatic series of the season -- for mostly the wrong reasons -- ended with a handshake line. 

Derek Holland was solid, the lineup broke through against hard-throwing righty Jose Ureña late, and the bullpen escaped -- barely -- in a 6-5 win. After losing the series opener, and their closer, on Monday night, the Giants took the next two from the pesky Marlins. The end came with more drama. Sam Dyson, in his second save opportunity since taking over, was pulled after giving up two runs and putting the tying run on second. Reyes Moronta closed it out. 

Here’s how the rest of it went down ... 

— This game started with more bad injury news in a season full of it. Alen Hanson, a revelation as a utility infielder and fill-in, fouled a ball off his knee in the bottom of the first and crumpled to the dirt. He had to be helped off the field by trainer Dave Groeschner and manager Bruce Bochy. Hanson was diagnosed with a left knee contusion. 

— Gorkys Hernandez is playing through some serious rib discomfort, but that didn’t keep him from winning an epic battle with Jose Ureña in the sixth. On the 14th pitch of the at-bat, Hernandez looped a two-run single into right to give the Giants a five-run inning and 5-1 lead. Earlier in the inning, Brandon Belt had roped a game-tying double to right-center. 

— Holland walked off to a standing ovation after giving the Giants some length. Tony Watson cashed in two of his runs; Holland was charged with three earned in six innings. He struck out seven and walked two. 

— Bochy loves Ty Blach in a “do everything” bullpen role, and on this day that meant being the setup man. Blach had a perfect eighth inning, holding a two-run lead. His last three outings: 6 2/3 relief innings last Thursday; a scoreless sixth inning to hold a lead last night; a scoreless eighth today.