Bumgarner moves past 2011 struggles with dominant start to spring

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Bumgarner moves past 2011 struggles with dominant start to spring

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Madison Bumgarner started the 2011 season 0-6, but after keeping the Padres off balance for three innings Thursday in Peoria, its clear the 22-year-old southpaw wants no part of any early season struggles.By blowing his fastball by San Diegos hitters and locating his secondary pitches, Bumgarner became the first Giants starter to complete three innings this spring, striking out five in a scoreless outing. The first-round pick in 2007 has now allowed just one run on three hits and a walk in 5.2 innings and leads the Cactus League in strikeouts.Its still really early but I definitely feel good, Bumgarner said. Command feels pretty good.

RELATED: Madison Bumgarner career stats 2011 game logs splits
Bumgarner said he used his full repertoire against the Padres, but wished he had the opportunity to throw more changeups. Regardless of what hes throwing, Bumgarner is locating like most pitchers his age can only dream of.Its no secret what is motivating Bumgarner. On June 21, he walked off the mound at AT&T Park with his head down after giving up eight runs on nine hits in only a third of an inning against the Twins.
REWIND: Twins pounce on Bumgarner early, Giants fall
That infamous outing dropped Bumgarners record to 3-9, but also may have motivated him as he went on a dominant run to end his second full MLB season. In his next start, Bumgarner allowed a run in seven innings and struck out 11 Indians, starting off a stretch in which he posted a 2.62 ERA and 125 strikeouts with just 22 walks in 120.1 innings pitched over his final 18 starts.Hopefully each year will keep getting better and better, Bumgarner said. I think thats what everybody strives for. Trying to constantly keep learning and dont get complacent and just keeping working hard and trying to get better. So hopefully it will be better.Bumgarner said he learned a lot throughout last season, not just from the forgettable outing against Minnesota, but also from his rotation-mates Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.We all kind of feed off each other, Bumgarner said. It seems like those guys are constantly going out there and throwing at least a quality start and most of the time better I probably drive them crazy asking questions throughout the year. But its definitely nice to have those guys as teammates and be able to learn from them.As for that fateful June night in San Francisco?I just tried to forget about it and move on, he said. You know thats what youre supposed to do anyway but sometimes its easier said than done. I started just focusing on making pitches instead of being out on the mound worrying about mechanics or anything else.A less worried Bumgarner appears poised to fill the Giants second rotation slot. But he isnt overly excited about his promotion, acknowledging that its just to break up right-handed co-aces Lincecum and Cain.While Lincecum and Cain have long been the Giants frontline starters, they may have some competition if Bumgarner continues to mature and develop the way he has in his short service time so far.I learned a lot over the year last year and the year before that, he said. You just keep learning.

Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

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Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik's leadoff homer in the series opener was a jolt, but the Giants are a much more dangerous offense when Denard Span is clicking atop the lineup, a spot ahead of Panik, and they hope to have that duo going Wednesday. Span got treatment all day Tuesday and said he could return to the lineup against Kyle Hendricks. 

"The swelling has gone down," Span said of his sprained left thumb. "The thing to do is to come in tomorrow, test it out, and if it feels good, you strap it on."

Span said an X-ray came back clean, but he didn't grab a bat Tuesday to test the thumb, focusing instead on treatment. He is batting .326 in nine games since coming off the DL. His replacement in center this week, Gorkys Hernandez, was 0-for-3 against Jon Lester, lowering his average to .160. 

--- The main story from the second game of this series: Johnny Cueto is now dealing with a second blister, and you can see the lack of movement on his pitches. The Cubs took advantage. Lester didn't need much help while throwing a 99-pitch complete game in two hours and five minutes. 

"He threw a lot more changeups than we've seen in the past," Buster Posey said. "He's shown it in the past but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot and threw it to lefties as well.

Posey twice grounded short rollers in front of the plate.

--- Posey's throw to nab Javy Baez on Monday was one of the best of the year, and on Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Bochy said, "If he's given a chance, I don't think there's anyone better in the game." That might be true, but Willson Contreras is threatening to get into the conversation. He threw an 85 mph rocket to second in the fifth to nab Eduardo Nuñez. If you're wondering how Lester -- who flat-out has the yips about throwing to first base and doesn't do it -- has allowed just six stolen bases this season, look no further than his young catcher. Long-term, Contreras is the guy I would expect to compete with Posey for Gold Gloves. 

"Nuney, with his speed, can go," Bochy said. "Their catcher made a great throw. Put it right on the money."

--- From before Tuesday's game, what do the relievers think of the new hidden bullpen at Wrigley? And if you missed the Power Rankings the other day, the records are outdated, but there are updates in here on old friends Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, Tommy Joseph, Adalberto Mejia, Yusmeiro Petit and others. Petit in particular is incredible ... just keeps doing his thing. 

--- This play was made by the shortstop. That's good for the old UZR.

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

CHICAGO — Even after losses, Johnny Cueto tends to find a way to flash a smile or two in post-game interviews. He is as competitive as it gets between the lines, but off the field he embraces a relaxed attitude. 

There was none of that Tuesday night at Wrigley. Cueto wore a dour look while describing a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, perhaps because he is a man searching for answers. Cueto was already pitching with a blister for the first time in his career. On Tuesday, he admitted he’s now trying to make the ball dance while dealing with a second blister. 

The first, on his middle finger, popped up at the end of the spring and has bothered Cueto off and on. The second, on his index finger, formed in St. Louis last week. 

“It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said several times. “I was getting hit.”

The Cubs crushed three homers, including a 470-foot bomb from Kyle Schwarber. All three pitches leaked right over the heart of the plate, and Cueto admitted that he can't get that final twist on the ball as he normally does. A tad of his movement is missing, and hitters are taking advantage. 

“It’s just those pitches I left hanging,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “When you leave pitches hanging or put them right in the middle of the plate, you’re going to pay the price.”

The homers — by Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo — represented 60 percent of the hits Cueto gave up. He struck out eight in six innings.

“It’s a little unlike Johnny to make mistakes like that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You like to think you could make a mistake and get away with it, but he didn’t tonight. A couple of fastballs he pulled over the heart of the plate and then one cutter.”

Catcher Buster Posey said the Cubs were on Cueto’s heater, so the duo tried to adjust. You can’t pitch without your fastball, though, and Cueto’s isn’t quite as explosive as it was in his first year with the Giants. The velocity is down a couple of ticks, but it’s unclear if that too is related to the blisters. 

What is clear is that Cueto is a different pitcher in his second season in San Francisco. He has a 4.64 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .253 with 11 homers. Through 10 starts last year, Cueto had a 2.83 ERA and was holding hitters to a .229 average. He had allowed just two homers. 

“Gosh, it’s just probably a few more mistakes than he made last year,” Bochy said. “He’s still competing so well and he gives you a chance to win every game.”

Cueto made it through six despite the long-ball issues, but that wasn’t enough against Jon Lester, who would have faced Cueto in Game 5 last October. Lester needed just 99 pitches to carve up the Giants for a complete game. He threw 70 strikes. 

That’s the type of efficient performance the Giants came to expect from Cueto last year. Cueto still expects it from himself, but his fingers aren’t cooperating. Asked if he would take a short stint on the DL to get right, Cueto said he can’t. He needs to keep pitching and have callouses form. Plus, any break without throwing would be a significant blow to a team trying desperately to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot. 

“Basically, it makes no sense whatsoever,” to take a break, Cueto said.