When the San Francisco Giants lost Madison Bumgarner to a broken pinky on the last day of the Arizona portion of spring training, the team feared he could be out until at least the All-Star break.But Bumgarner quelled those fears on Saturday night in his first rehab start with the Sacramento River Cats.
MadBum made his first rehab start in front of plenty of San Francisco Giants fans, in Sacramento last night. In 3 2/3 dominant, no-hit innings against the Albuquerque Isotopes, Bumgarner impressively struck out eight batters while walking only one. He was spotting the fastball and breaking ball exactly where he wanted it and showed no rust.
Bumgarner nailed his signature up-and-in fastball impressively and even threw in a 61 mile-per-hour curveball with precise control. He struck out the side in the first inning and topped 92 miles per hour with the fastball.
And in typical Mad Bum fashion, he even slammed a single to the opposite field in his one at-bat.
With his better-than-expected outing on Saturday, is it conceivable Bumgarner makes just the one rehab start and returns Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies at AT&T Park?
It is something the Giants may consider, especially given the state of the rotation.
San Francisco is 22nd in baseball in quality starts with just 18. Giants starting pitchers have posted a 4.65 ERA and have a collective 1.37 WHIP.
Take Saturday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Chris Stratton battled to get through five innings in the Giants’ 5-4 win at Wrigley. When Derek Holland got through six innings on Friday, it was a rare feat for a Giants pitcher to even last that long.
So, if the Giants’ starting pitchers aren’t going deep into games anyway, why not have Bumgarner ramp up to 80 pitches in the big leagues?
And Bumgarner is ready for the challenge.
"“I think so,” Bumgarner told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic. “I obviously didn’t know before today, but judging off the way it felt today, I think so, for sure.”"
Bumgarner broke his pinky after he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City Royals outfielder Whit Merrifield on Mar. 23.
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His next rehab outing is scheduled to be on Thursday with the San Jose Giants, since the River Cats will be on the road.
But Bumgarner reiterated to MLB.com he is ready to return to the big leagues–as soon as possible.
"“I obviously didn’t know before today, but judging off the way I felt out there, I think so for sure,” Bumgarner said. “I wouldn’t say I’d be back and be in midseason form, but I feel definitely good enough to get some outs.”"
On the other hand, the Giants have played well at home this season with or without Bumgarner and should be able to navigate through their next homestand without him.
San Francisco is 14-10 at AT&T Park and is sixth in baseball in home OPS. So, they could possibly outslug the opponent at home for another few games.
But when the Giants roll into Washington and Miami, needing that ace to shut down the opponent and the opposing team’s home crowd, that’s where Bumgarner–at full strength–would be useful.
But, you go ahead and try to stop a healthy Bumgarner from taking the hill when he feels he’s ready.