Entries in Madison Bumgarner (19)


A chill in the Giants camp

By Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — “Frost,” the sign read. “Stay off grass.” No one-liners, please, even if the warning is so very Nor Cal. Besides, this was after the Giants had worked out Wednesday in weather chilly enough to keep observers bundled, but not chilly enough to keep young ballplayers from working out.

There’s a new field at the Giants' complex, with two infields. Not exactly as impressive as, say, the White Sox and Dodgers' facility 15 miles west at Glendale, where each team has a dozen diamonds apiece. But the Giants have civilization, which counts for something.

Not as much as some power hitting and relief pitching, of course. This spring training of 2018 is one of problems and questions. For the first time in years, San Francisco enters — let’s say it — as an also-ran, a team theoretically without hope.

The Giants bottomed out in 2017. A chill. A fall from the heights. Three World Series championships in five years, certainly. But that was then. Now is a muddle.

Will Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutcheon make that much of a difference? The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are locks, aren’t they, and the Rockies should make the postseason. The Padres were seven games in front of San Francisco and just signed Eric Hosmer for millions.

It is a sobering reminder that last season the Giants not only didn’t win four out of every 10 games, they finished 40 games behind the dreaded Dodgers. That seems impossible. It wasn’t.

Maybe it’s the temperature, the high down here just 61 degrees. Maybe it’s the reality. But for the Giants, the usual optimism of spring training seems absent. How do you pick up 20 games on the Dodgers, never mind 40? And how do you feel good wearing parkas in Arizona?

Giants manager Bruce Bochy spent a good part of Wednesday on that new back field, watching prospects such as Andres Blanco and Chase D’Arnaud. “I need to put the face with the name,” said Bochy, ”although I know them all. They have it a little tougher.”

He meant tougher than the veterans, who are not to be rushed. The Giants’ exhibition season opens Friday, split squad against Milwaukee, and Buster Posey will be watching, not playing, and probably a game or two after that. Posey is approaching 31. Catchers wear down.

Pablo Sandoval already is 31 and, at times, being dropped by Boston and then returning to the Giants in July 2017, already looked worn down. He hit .225 with five home runs in 47 games with San Francisco.

Bochy said Sandoval, with a history of being overweight, is in good shape. He’ll be used at third base and first base, backing up, and at times as a bullpen catcher. Where the Panda will not be used is in the outfield.

“We were playing one of those postseason games in Taiwan, a lot of major leaguers,” said Bochy. “I put Pablo in left field. There’s a line drive in the gap. He looks to his left at the center fielder, a speed guy (it was Curtis Granderson), as if, ‘That’s your ball.’

“But everything that’s happened to Pablo over the years hasn’t fazed him.”

What happened last season certainly fazed the Giants and their fans. The AT&T Park sellout streak ended at 530 games. Madison Bumgarner fell off a dirt bike and missed a couple of months. It was as if the baseball gods were making San Francisco pay for the glory of earlier years.

When Bumgarner went down, Ty Blach stepped up. And Blach will start the Cactus League opener on Friday. The usual contention is that exhibition games don’t mean anything, that pitchers are working to get in shape.

But for a team built on pitching, a team coming off a rotten year, these exhibition games over the next month could mean a great deal. They could make everyone, players and fans, believe.

“My job,” said Bochy, “is to get these guys ready for opening day.” Being ready does count. Being successful counts much more.



S.F. Examiner: Bumgarner winless in three starts

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

Buster’s on the disabled list, if only momentarily. Mad Bum is on the outs with fortune. Brandon Belt is, well, struggling is the kind way to phrase it, although, glorioski he did get a hit after going, ooh, 0-for-18. Oh, those odd-year blues for the Giants.

Yes, the season isn’t two weeks old, and a year ago San Francisco started beautifully and ended less so, proving over 162 games and six months a great deal can change, sometimes for the better as opposed to 2016 when it was for the worse.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Opening Day reminder of last season’s woes

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

PHOENIX — Somewhere beyond the usual platitudes and justifications, the expected words that it was only one game and yes, baseball can be bewilderingly strange, is the unavoidable fact the Giants started the 2017 season exactly the way they ended the 2016 season: With a massive bullpen failure.

Say what you want, and what manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday was true to his character, that the Giants should have scored more, that the Arizona Diamondbacks had some good fortune — “seeing-eye hits,” is the phrase — and that a couple of calls by the umpires could have, more specifically, should have gone the other way.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner


S.F. Examiner: Questions for Giants as they drop eight

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Eight in a row for the Giants, the wrong way. True, they don’t count, but going a week without a win, even in the exhibition season brings back haunting memories of the second half of the 2016 regular season, when those losses did count, when San Francisco plunged from first place.

Madison Bumgarner pitched beautifully on a 72-degree Sunday afternoon, and that is what we should take from yet another Cactus League defeat for the Giants, this one to the Kansas City Royals, 4-3.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner


Giants: Little things and big defeats

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — They’re not going to win the division. That’s for sure. Maybe the Giants still will make the postseason, get in as a wild card, and even that’s problematic.

But definitely the way they are playing, just poorly enough to lose, they won’t overtake the Dodgers — who gleefully overtook the tumbling Giants in the National League West days ago.

It’s not that the Giants are a bad team. The Atlanta Braves are a bad team. No, the Braves are a terrible team. The San Diego Padres are a bad team. They are 22 games below .500. And that’s after sweeping a three-game series from the Giants. For a second time this season.

The Giants are a good team playing badly. Or once were a good team playing badly, very badly as defined by a classical, baseball reference.

When they hit they don’t pitch, as they did and didn't on Tuesday night, San Francisco entering the ninth with a 4-1 lead and ingloriously losing to the Padres 6-4 on a home run by, not Nate Colbert or Tony Gwynn even, but Ryan Schimpf. The 27th blown save of the season. Oh, where are you now, Robb Nen?

When the Giants pitch they don’t hit, as they did and didn't on Wednesday in the sunshine and gloom (the mood, not the weather) at AT&T Park, San Francisco getting only four singles and thus getting whipped by the Pads, 3-1.

So the little bit of optimism created when the Giants had a sweep of their own, taking three in a row at Arizona over the weekend, has been trashed, smashed and tossed into McCovey Cove. So much for progress.

The Dodgers, who beat the Yankees for the second time in their three-game series at the Stadium, now are five in front of San Francisco. The billionaires at Chavez Ravine smirk.

In the post-game session Wednesday, Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager, was asked if he had sleepless nights, to which he answered in the affirmative, adding, “I wish I could do more. Every manager or head coach does. It’s always on your mind.”

Some would say Bochy could have done more on Tuesday night if Brandon Belt hadn’t been out because he was ailing. Buster Posey was playing first, and there was a ball off Posey’s mitt, which became an infield single when reliever Hunter Strickland conceded he was slow to cover the base.

The little things, and the big defeats.

On Wednesday, the Giants' bullpen couldn’t be faulted. Neither could starter Madison Bumgarner. You allow only three runs, you’ll normally win. Not, however, when the season is coming apart at the seams.

San Diego starter Luis Perdomo mystified the Giants' batters. The first four men in the order, Denard Span, Angel Pagan, Posey and Brandon Crawford, had two walks and no hits among them. Only because Belt and Joe Panik managed back-to-back singles in the second, after a Crawford walk, did the Giants avoid a shutout.

“He had a good sinker,” Bochy, a former catcher, said of Perdomo, who didn’t look like someone who came into the game with a 7-9 record and 5.89 earned run average. Ah, but the Giants looked very much like the team that has collapsed (20-35 since July 10) in notable fashion.

Bumgarner, gracious as always post-game, stood there attired like a hunter (not Strickland) and was asked what needs to be corrected: pitching, hitting, whatever.

“I don’t know,” he answered quietly. “So far, the second half’s been a club I’ve never seen before.”

A club that Giants fans have seen too much of, one that's causing them to wonder what might have transpired if San Francisco, not the Cubs, got 100 mph closer Aroldis Chapman (or who the Giants would have been forced to trade to acquire him).

Bumgarner was unable to pick up his 100th career victory, a total that’s inevitable.

“There’s a lot of pressure this time of year,” reminded Baumgarner, reflecting on the chase for the playoffs and not his personal goals or difficulties. “It’s more of a mind-set this time of the year.”

Bochy could only agree.

“This was a big series,” he conceded about the three games, three defeats, against San Diego. “They’re all big.”

A little more than two weeks are left in a season that began so well, a season — an even year — in which the Giants were picked to be champions. How did we go wrong? How did the Giants?