Shaun Anderson, Giants top pitching prospect, impresses in MLB debut

Shaun Anderson, Giants top pitching prospect, impresses in MLB debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- All eyes were on Giants top pitching prospect Shaun Anderson on Wednesday afternoon, but you'll forgive some of his new teammates if they didn't pay full attention when Anderson dug into the box in the second inning. 

Even Aramis Garcia, his offseason workout partner, friend, and catcher, did not have high -- or any -- expectations as Anderson stepped up for the first time. A year ago with Double-A Richmond, Anderson had borrowed one of Garcia's bats. Apparently the results were not memorable. 

"In Richmond, man ... it looked like, ah ... we thought he was going to hurt himself with how hard he was swinging," Garcia said, smiling. 

Anderson, listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, is still swinging hard. And in his debut that swing twice put the barrel on an Edwin Jackson pitch, leading to two hits in a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays. He also pitched five solid innings, more than enough to guarantee a second start. That'll come next week at Oracle Park, when Anderson will try to build on the historic start at the plate. 

Anderson had an opposite field double that left the bat at 108.9 mph -- giving him the 12th hardest-hit ball of the year by a Giant -- and a seeing-eye single. He became the first pitcher in Giants history to have two hits in his debut and the first to do it for any team since the Mets' Steven Matz in 2010. 

So yes, for a few days, Shaun Anderson has bragging rights over Madison Bumgarner. 

"I actually worked with him in spring training on hitting," Anderson said. "So I can credit him a little bit."

Anderson surely will slow down at the plate, but on the mound, the signs were just as positive. He gave up three runs -- two earned -- and all three were easily avoidable.

"They got a couple of cheap runs," was how manager Bruce Bochy put it. 

All three runs against Anderson were scored by Blue Jays leadoff hitter Brandon Drury, but just two were earned, and the rallies weren't exactly concerning. Drury led off the game with a broken-bat bloop single to right and scored with two outs when Anderson threw one of just two curveballs on the day. It checked up near the bottom of the zone and Freddy Galvis yanked it into the right field corner. 

"I was going with a different look," Anderson said. "I went with the curve in the zone and left it right there and he got to it."

Brandon Crawford, who hit the go-ahead homer after Anderson had departed, said that's something that will change with experience. The curve might be Anderson's fourth best pitch, and Crawford said he'll learn to bury it in that situation. But Crawford did see something he liked in that moment. 

"He was aggressive," he said. 

Two innings later, Drury drew a walk, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a deep fly ball, and raced home on another wild pitch. Anderson got to the plate in time for the tag but dropped the ball as he collided with Drury. In the fifth, Drury reached on Evan Longoria's error and went all the way to third when Anderson's pickoff throw got down the line. He scored on a slow roller to third. 

"That's something I need to limit," Anderson said of the wild pitches and errant pickoff. "Limiting those mistakes would have helped me win."

Regardless, there was more than enough to build on. Anderson leaned heavily on a fastball that hit 95 and has natural cut. He can sink it or throw it straight to mix it up. He also threw plenty of hard sliders, with two different variations. The curveball will come with time, and Crawford, who faced Anderson in spring training, said the changeup is actually an underrated offering. 

What does not need any sharpening is the demeanor. Anderson is known as a "bulldog," and Garcia said he's the type -- in the Bumgarner mold -- to stare a hitter down. Anderson showed confidence and aggression Wednesday, but he never appeared out of control.

"He's one of my favorite guys to catch, for sure," Garcia said. 

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With Buster Posey set to return Friday, Garcia may not be around for Anderson's next start. But the important thing right now, for an organization looking for any signs of future life, is that Anderson earned a next start. Bochy left no doubt when asked, saying he's in the rotation for now, which means a few more at-bats, at the very least. 

"I didn't know he could swing the bat like that," Bochy said. "That's a pretty nice debut, isn't it?"

Bumgarner passes Cain in career strikeouts, approaches Lincecum

Bumgarner passes Cain in career strikeouts, approaches Lincecum

SAN FRANCISCO -- No matter what happens over the next week or the month after that, Madison Bumgarner will always be identified by what he did during a magical five-year postseason run with the Giants, one in which he often walked side-by-side with two pitchers who are legendary in San Francisco for their own accomplishments. 

It's appropriate, then, that at a time when every Bumgarner start seems bittersweet in a way, he is once again standing between Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. 

The trade rumors keep swirling and Bumgarner keeps setting down opposing hitters, and with 11 strikeouts in a 4-2 win over the Rockies he inched past Cain on the franchise's all-time strikeout list. With 1,695, he's one ahead of Cain and just nine from tying Lincecum.

Bumgarner expressed amazement that Lincecum piled up more than 1,700 strikeouts in what seemed like such a short time. He said he might have to send a message to Cain, his mentor and friend. More than anything, he seemed humbled by that kind of company. 

"It's pretty special to me to be on any kind of leaderboard or close to the top on certain things for this organization," Bumgarner said. "It's been around a long time and a lot of really good players have come through here, so that's definitely an honor."

With 10 more strikeouts, Bumgarner will trail just Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal and Amos Rusie on the franchise list, with Marichal the all-time leader (2,281) as a San Francisco Giant. It's not a lock that Bumgarner will get a chance to keep climbing. Every start these days could be his last in orange and black, but on Tuesday the 31,000 in attendance were treated to another throwback performance.  

Both pitchers seemed to take advantage of the shadows in the first inning, combining for five strikeouts, but Bumgarner was able to keep his momentum going as the lineup chipped away at Rockies right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez. Bumgarner struck out a pair in each of the first three innings and was perfect until Ian Desmond hit a flat changeup into the left field seats with one out in the fourth. 

Bumgarner struck out at least one hitter in each of his six innings, but a defensive misplay put him on his heels near the end of the rope. With two outs and a runner on second in the sixth, Alex Dickerson lost a pop-up to left in the lights as the Rockies cut the deficit to 3-2. Bumgarner responded by freezing Ryan McMahon with a fastball on his final pitch of the night. 

That strikeout gave Bumgarner 11 for the first time since April 2, 2017, which was his last double-digit strikeout performance and a start that came three weeks before the dirt bike crash. Six of the strikeouts came on a curveball that subtly changed speeds throughout the night. 

"He had his good fastball but at the same time, the off-speed pitches," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had a good mix going with good command."

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Bumgarner had something else, too. After a start in Los Angeles last Thursday that was one of the worst of his career, he realized he had become too predictable to one side of the plate. 

"These guys are too good to do that to," he said. "The plate is small enough as it is, so you'd better use the whole thing."

Rockies vs. Giants lineups: Why Bruce Bochy has Brandon Belt leading off


Rockies vs. Giants lineups: Why Bruce Bochy has Brandon Belt leading off

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants on Tuesday will have a No. 2 hitter who was in the minors when the season started, a cleanup hitter who has played just four games with the team, and a No. 5 hitter who began the season in Toronto. But that's not what stood out when the lineup went up. 

Brandon Belt is hitting leadoff for just the second time in his career. Belt is not your prototypical leadoff hitter but he leads the team with a .359 on-base percentage and nobody else is particularly close. Joe Panik is the next highest among regulars at .317. 

"Hopefully he gets on base. He's a good on-base guy, but also a power threat," manager Bruce Bochy said of the decision. "It's fair to say offensively we've had our struggles and sometimes you change thing to see if you get out of that rut, especially here at home. We've had a lot of games where we've scored two runs or less."

The Giants got blanked 2-0 in the first game of this series with the Rockies. They rank last in the Majors with 116 runs scored at home and have a .284 team on-base percentage at Oracle Park. Bochy said he has thought about making the change for a few days. 

"If it doesn't work you can look at me," he said, laughing.

[RELATED: Giants, Dodgers not ruling out trade]

Here are tonight's full lineups: 

Colorado Rockies (41-37)
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) RF
2. Ian Desmond (R) CF
3. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
4. David Dahl (L) LF
5. Chris Iannetta (R) C
6. Ryan McMahon (L) 2B
7. Mark Reynolds (R) 1B
8. Garrett Hampson (R) SS
9. Chi Chi Gonzalez (R) P (2019 season debut)

San Francisco Giants (33-44)
1. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
2. Mike Yastrzemski (L) RF
3. Buster Posey (R) C
4. Alex Dickerson (L) LF
5. Kevin Pillar (R) CF
6. Evan Longoria (R) 3B
7. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
8. Donovan Solano (R) 2B
9. Madison Bumgarner (R) P (3-7, 4.28 ERA)