Giants

Rewind: Bumgarner enjoys 'pretty special' night at the plate

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Rewind: Bumgarner enjoys 'pretty special' night at the plate

OAKLAND — Brandon Belt has a plan. His dream, stated often, is to pitch in a big league game, so he can show off the arm that made him a top left-handed starter in Texas prep leagues. The Giants have never been all that keen on the idea, especially after Belt signed a lucrative long-term deal. But late Thursday, Belt smiled as he hatched a plan and talked of an opening. 

If the Giants let a pitcher hit in the designated hitter spot, why not let a first baseman take the mound?

After all, the first unorthodox move worked out pretty well.

The game has seen plenty of position players on the mound. Belt himself faced a catcher earlier this month in Pittsburgh. But what Madison Bumgarner did Thursday is virtually unprecedented. He hit for himself in an American League park, becoming the first in 40 years to do it without a lineup card mistake necessitating the move, and it helped the Giants to a 12-6 win over the A’s. 

Bumgarner’s lined-shot double in the third ignited a six-run rally for the Giants. He pitched into the seventh on the mound, as the Giants salvaged a game in this Bay Area series. Afterward, Bumgarner said he was happy that manager Bruce Bochy approached him with the idea a few days back. He gladly accepted the challenge.

“That was definitely pretty special that we got a chance to do that,” Bumgarner said. “I’m glad I didn’t make him look stupid.”

Bumgarner got to break the mold for a number of reasons, including the growing disabled list. The Giants didn’t feel like they had better options, and Bochy appreciates the way Bumgarner has become a competitive at-bat, not just someone aiming to hit a ball 500 feet (although he likes to do that, too). He noted repeatedly that Bumgarner has a “presence” in the batter’s box, and rookie Dillon Overton felt it early.

Bumgarner smoked a shot to center in a scoreless game and Billy Burns couldn’t catch up to it. The next five Giants reached base. Belt hit a two-run double, Buster Posey hit a three-run homer, and Brandon Crawford added a solo shot.

“I guess hitting can be contagious. We figured if the pitcher can do it, the rest of us can do it," Belt cracked. "When someone leads off and hits a double, it builds momentum and that’s what you saw.”

The Giants needed it after three of their ugliest losses of the season. Bumgarner wasn’t his usual self on the mound, giving up a two-run shot to lefty Yonder Alonso and four runs overall. But he provided a jolt for a clubhouse that fed off the energy of Bochy’s decision. The reaction to Bumgarner hitting was mostly positive, but in the hours after the news trickled out late Wednesday night, there was some negativity.

A couple Giants noted that some national pundits slammed Bochy’s decision. Bochy repeatedly insisted Thursday that this was his call, and it was made for just one reason: To give the Giants the best chance to win.

“We needed something to ignite us,” early in the game, Bochy said, “And he did it. He’s got a presence in the lineup. He’s a pitcher, but he’s imposing and he’s dangerous.”

Bumgarner was 1-for-4, but the lone hit started an avalanche. He got a loud ovation from fans on both sides as he walked to the plate, the scoreboard showing an unusual combo. Because the Coliseum lists the starting pitcher under the rest of the lineup, Bumgarner, the No. 9 hitter, was listed twice in a row.

Bumgarner said he wasn’t surprised by all the talk surrounding the move. He also didn’t particularly care if anyone thought it was a bad idea.

“I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody,” he said. “We’re trying to win a ballgame.”

This was the 50th victory for the Giants, who maintain a steady lead in the division. They’ll try to get close to 60 by the All-Star break, and Bumgarner is surely headed to San Diego. While he got to hit Thursday night, in the afternoon Bochy revealed that Bumgarner will not participate in the Home Run Derby.

“That kind of got blown out of proportion,” Bumgarner said. “I got asked if I would do it if they asked, and I said of course I would. It kind of just took off. It would be fun to do, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to take away from a guy who has hit 15 to 20 homers.”

Bumgarner will be a spectator during the Derby, and that’s fine to the Giants. They’re happy to let him take his cuts in games that count, and with road series in Boston and New York after the break, Bumgarner might get a shot at another American League park. 

His teammates hope it happens. There seemed to be no discontent with Bochy’s decision to put a backup on ice while a pitcher took four at-bats, with one yelling out “what a hitter!” as Bumgarner spoke to reporters and another calling his feats “legendary.”

As Bumgarner walked through the clubhouse, a couple pitchers watched and shook their heads, smiling. One was asked how he would pitch to Bumgarner. He thought about it for a while, and finally said he wasn’t quite sure.

“I’m just glad he’s on our team,” he said. 

What will Farhan Zaidi look for in next Giants manager?

What will Farhan Zaidi look for in next Giants manager?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Whether he’s watching the team from the dugout, standing in the clubhouse hallway, or walking back and forth on the back fields at Scottsdale Stadium, Farhan Zaidi always seems to have his cell phone pressed to his ear. 

That was the case Monday when Bruce Bochy announced that this will be his final season, but Zaidi said he did not get calls from coaches around the game looking to get a head start in the search process. He knows that will change, though. It didn’t take long after Zaidi took the Giants job for colleagues to start asking about a potential GM position, and you can bet that parts of this season will be spent having secret discussions with candidates to replace Bochy.

The man who actually hired Bochy 13 years ago believes that’s a good thing. This won’t be a distraction or an awkward situation, Brian Sabean said. Zaidi was informed during the hiring process that Bochy was likely headed for retirement, and Sabean believes that gave everyone time to get “out front” and “on board.”

“I think it should relax the atmosphere among all parties and give (Bochy) his proper due, give him his proper sendoff, but it also gives Farhan some good lead time to noodle this whole thing or line up how he’s going to attack it,” Sabean said. 

Zaidi has already been through this process once before. He teamed with Andrew Friedman in 2015 to hire Dave Roberts in Los Angeles, and that collaboration proved to be a successful one. Zaidi, a communicator by nature, spent years with the A’s and Dodgers and has given plenty of thought to what or who he would look for if given his own shop.

He wouldn’t give anything away this week, but he has a short list forming in his head already. 

“I think everybody is shaped by their own experience and people that they’ve come into contact with that they value their baseball acumen or their personal values or those kinds of things,” he said. “Everybody just by virtue of their own experience has a list of people that they’ve thought, ‘That guy could be a manager one day,' or, 'If I’m in a position that’s someone I would think about.’”

While Zaidi said this would be a collective process, Larry Baer made it clear that his president of baseball operations will take the lead. Baer said people within the organization — Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus would be two likely internal candidates — will be considered, but most of the candidates Zaidi has experience with would come from the outside. 

One possible candidate, David Bell, came off the board a couple of weeks before Zaidi was hired. When Bell joined the organization as farm director in 2017, he was viewed as a likely successor to Bochy or general manager Bobby Evans. The Reds hired him away in October. 

Bell was a nice blend of old and new, someone who could be a respected voice in the clubhouse but also work seamlessly with an analytics-driven front office. Roberts has been the same in Los Angeles, and that seems the likely mold for this search. 

But Zaidi promised to be open-minded, pointing out that he and Friedman had no idea Roberts would even be a finalist when they began that search. To that point, two executives known as analytics types put together an eclectic group of candidates when the Dodgers were looking for Don Mattingly’s replacement. 

Gabe Kapler, a favorite to win the Dodgers job back then, was certainly a modern choice. But the Dodgers also reportedly interviewed longtime baseball men Tim Wallach and Ron Roenicke, both of whom were in their late fifties at the time. Kirk Gibson was brought in, and he’s certainly not the type to be a puppet for a front office. Former Angel Darin Erstad, current Rockies manager Bud Black and current Nationals manager Dave Martinez also reportedly interviewed.

That’s not a group that has a ton in common.

[RELATED: Odds for next Giants manager to replace Bruce Bochy brings wild names]

Zaidi has a reputation for being the smartest guy in the room, but he loves spending time with scouts and experienced coaches, and has regularly positioned himself behind the cage this spring, chatting up players and Giants coaches. He eventually will find a replacement for Bochy, but right now it’s not something he’s worrying much about. 

“I’m sure there will be conversations and inquiries along the way, but it’s not the focus for us,” he said. “For me, I’m still trying to learn the organization and the players and make sure I get off to the right start.”

Giants' Buster Posey likely won't play in spring games until March 1

Giants' Buster Posey likely won't play in spring games until March 1

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There has been nothing over the first couple weeks of camp to indicate that Buster Posey won't be ready Opening Day, but the Giants promised all along to be cautious, and that will start Saturday when the Cactus League season kicks off. 

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Posey won't play until March 1, and that may be the case for some other veterans. Brandon Crawford has been watched closely the last couple of years and Bochy wasn't sure if any regulars would be in the lineup Saturday when the Giants visit the Angels.

He said it's the right thing to do with a long spring, although he's hoping to get big names out there soon, aware that fans often pay a lot for spring games. 

"As a kid, I was one of those guys that would skip school to see spring training games in Florida," Bochy said.

Brandon Belt and Joe Panik seem the most likely to get out there early on. Belt said he's eager to see real pitching. As for the rest of the everyday lineup, Evan Longoria fits the vet status, the Giants have position battles in both outfield corners, and Steven Duggar is coming off shoulder surgery and may be a few days behind. 

Bochy had a somewhat unusual spring when veterans like Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, Stephen Vogt and Yangervis Solarte signed late. He said there's no rush to see what they can do. 

"These guys are chipping some rust off," he said. 

[RELATED: Giants 'trying hard' for Bryce Harper, but not optimistic]

--- The schedule for the starters early on: Chris Stratton and Ty Blach on Saturday; Madison Bumgarner on Sunday; Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz on Monday; Dereck Rodriguez on Tuesday; Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Suarez on Wednesday. 

--- At the beginning of camp, Bochy said he hoped to get Joey Bart into early Cactus League games. That remains the plan. 

--- One more on the "Bochy is retiring" front: Here's what Bob Melvin had to say.

--- I wrote about top pitching prospect Shaun Anderson the other day. Here's some video of him in action today. There's certainly a Noah Syndergaard thing going on at times.