SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Here is the difference with MadisonBumgarner:
Last spring, he couldnt complete five innings in a CactusLeague start. On Sunday, he did it with apparent ease against the San DiegoPadres and used so few pitches, he had to mosey down to the bullpen to throw20 more.
Did we mention theres still two weeks to go before theGiants head north?
In a rotation with pitching luminaries Tim Lincecum and MattCain, its Bumgarner who has the scouts buzzing. Its been suggested by morethan one seasoned observer that Bumgarner could be the Giants best startingpitcher this season.
No wonder manager Bruce Bochy didnt blink at making the22-year-old left-hander his No.2 starter.
Its nice to hear, said Bumgarner, informed what thescouts are jotting down about him. Its still spring training, though. Itsprobably better than what they were saying last year at this time.
He didnt like the way he threw the ball last spring?
Well, I dont know, he said, in his slow drawl. If youlike ERAs in the 8s, I guess.
It wasnt quite that bad. But it wasnt good. Bumgarner hada few brilliant outings but struggled in others, finishing last spring with a4.76 ERA in six games (four starts).
He didnt necessarily build momentum to opening day, either.There was the March 20 start when he threw 40 pitches, made a throwing error tothird base and didnt escape the second inning. The next time out March 25, he gotpounded for eight runs in 4 13 innings.
He had a 6.17 ERA in five starts in April, and even thoughhe started to turn things around in May, it wasnt reflected in his record.
This spring, Bumgarner looks determined to avoid starting0-6, as he did a year ago. And the innings totals are going in the rightdirection.
Its gotta be pretty good if you can go longer each time,Bumgarner said. But Im not worried about any starts at all in springtraining.
Bumgarner doesnt have much to worry about. In four starts,he has a 2.45 ERA and a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 23 innings.