SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On the first day of Diamondbacks camp earlier this month, Archie Bradley found a crowd waiting at his locker. Bradley is entering his sixth big league season, and with his energetic personality and bushy beard, he has become a fan favorite in Arizona. He is expected to be the closer for a dark horse in the National League, and when he checked into Salt River Fields he also had an arbitration hearing hanging over his head.
In other words, there were a lot of different ways Bradley could have gone with his first interview of the spring, and yet, within 15 seconds he was excitedly talking about someone he had never before played with.
"MadBum, not to put any pressure on him by any means, but as a fan and a teammate, he sets the tone," Bradley said, his eyes lighting up. "He's got a presence around him. I think he has a lot left in the tank. You bring a guy like him in the clubhouse and it sets a presence and it sets a tone."
The Giants, with a new manager and coaching staff, have spent much of the spring focusing on culture. Fifteen minutes up the road, a division rival is counting on a longtime Giants star to help create their own winning culture.
The Diamondbacks had a fun-loving and competitive team last year, and they'll benefit greatly from the addition of Stephen Vogt, as good a clubhouse guy as there is in the game today. Young players raved about their early interactions with Vogt, who signed a few weeks before Bumgarner did. But the big lefty is the one the Diamondbacks were really looking forward to watching. Much of their staff has grown up watching Bumgarner dominate in the postseason. They believe he can set the direction and lead them back there.
"He's just a super competitor," 24-year-old lefty Zac Gallen said. "It speaks volumes what he did those three years in the playoffs. He brings a lot of experience, especially in an area that people don't have a lot of experience in. I'm going to try to pick his brain."
Gallen, who had a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts as a rookie, has hoped for a situation like this for a while. He grew up in North Carolina and attended UNC, where he said the coaches still tell stories of recruiting Bumgarner as a teenager and talk about how disappointed they were when he went pro out of high school. Gallen recalled watching Bumgarner snarl and grind against the Diamondbacks late last season even though the Giants were out of the race.
When Gallen had his exit meeting with general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo, they told him they wanted him to take the next step by watching veterans like Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. A couple of months later, Gallen found out he would be in the same rotation as Bumgarner.
"It's a little tougher when they're on the opposing side, but to hear he was coming to this locker room, I was fired up," Gallen said. "I was super pumped. I had a big smile on my face when I heard that news."
Just as the Giants have talked of what Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval can do for their next generation, Diamondbacks execs and coaches have noted that Bumgarner's leadership was part of what made him so appealing and led to a five-year deal. Bumgarner said on his first day in camp that he was ready to take on that role, but that he also wanted to learn from the staff already in place. He forever is tinkering, even after all these years.
It is potentially one of the best staffs in the National League, with Bumgarner joined by Robbie Ray, Gallen, Luke Weaver, Merrill Kelly and others. The Diamondbacks expect that pitching to help them give the Dodgers a run in the NL West. They have put together a strong roster, one the Giants will get their first look at on Monday at Scottsdale Stadium.
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Bumgarner won't face the Giants on Monday and almost certainly won't this spring. He is expected to make his Diamondbacks debut Thursday against the Reds and he said earlier this spring that as in past years he doesn't plan to face any NL West clubs until the season starts.
Bumgarner hasn't said much about the Giants to this point, but he has spoken to former teammates and stopped by their new facility at least once. Those who have spoken to him say he was disappointed by the lack of contract discussion late last year, and once he got to free agency and met the Diamondbacks, he hit it off with Lovullo and owner Ken Kendrick.
The Diamondbacks felt strongly enough about the pairing that they gave Bumgarner $85 million. A few hours later Bradley's phone buzzed. He had a text from Bumgarner saying he wanted to win. Months later, Bradley was still buzzing. Bumgarner came up repeatedly as he spoke to reporters for the first time.
"I keep bringing him up because I feel like when he's in the clubhouse, he brings a little rise out of guys," Bradley said. "He's a guy who has won three World Series, he's a World Series MVP and he just competes. That's the one thing about Bum that I've always loved. He doesn't care who you are, he's going to compete. That's what we need here."