Giants

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.

Johnny Cueto slowed Hunter Pence down, but the Rockies couldn't

Johnny Cueto slowed Hunter Pence down, but the Rockies couldn't

SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Pence walked into the dugout 30 minutes before Tuesday’s game, slid his bat into the rack, and smiled. 

“I’m hitting leadoff tonight,” he said, noting that it’s a spot for speedsters. 

On this night, it was a spot that was slowed down. Pence kept the bat steady on a couple of big swings that led the Giants to a 4-3 win. He accompanied that with a home run jog that was one of the comedic highlights in a season sorely lacking them. 

Pence’s fifth-inning blast to dead center was the go-ahead shot at the time, and Pence made his usual quick trip around first and second. When he approached third, he was confronted by a strange sight. Johnny Cueto, who had singled, turned and held his hand up. The two hit the bag a few feet apart, and Cueto practically walked home. He took 13 seconds to go the final 90 feet, and Pence — once nicknamed Full Throttle by his manager — had no choice but to follow in a power-walk of his own. 

“I was like, ‘I’m not the starting pitcher.’ They expend a lot of energy — every pitch is like a sprint,” Pence said. “You’ve got to take it easy if they tell you to take it easy.”

Pence has 218 career homers. He said this was the slowest jog of his career, and that’s exactly what Cueto wanted. 

“Obviously I was very happy when he hit the home run, and I just kept telling him to go ahead and slow down and enjoy the homer, because you're always running so fast,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. 

The home run power-walk was a funny moment, but it was also instructive. Pence brings the same energy and enjoyable attitude every day. In Cueto, his neighbor in the clubhouse, he has found a similar player. He said he’s hopeful that Cueto returns next season — as is expected — and noted that it’s a positive trait to have fun in this kind of season. 

“That’s imperative and it’s extremely important to keep that passion,” Pence said. “It’s not just about the standings. We love competing.”

Cueto showed his own fire by getting a lead into the seventh despite a soaring early pitch count. When Hunter Strickland coughed it up in the eighth, the Giants bounced right back. Pence ended the night with a sacrifice fly to center with the bases loaded. That capped a big night for him, one that left him smiling from start to finish. 

“It’s always a good time when you’re hitting a homer,” he said. 

Perhaps that’s why Cueto forced him to soak it all in.

Giants lineup: Two righties back in for opener against Rockies

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USATSI

Giants lineup: Two righties back in for opener against Rockies

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Rockies-Giants coverage begins at 6pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming right here.

After dealing with back spasms over the weekend, Hunter Pence is back in the lineup Tuesday against the Rockies.

Colorado Rockies:
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez (L) RF
4. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
5. Gerardo Parra (L) LF
6. Trevor Story (R) SS
7. Ian Desmond (R) 1B
8. Jonathan Lucroy (R) C
9. German Marquez (R) P

San Francisco Giants:
1. Hunter Pence (R) RF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Denard Span (L) CF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Jarrett Parker (L) LF
7. Pablo Sandoval (S) 1B
8. Ryder Jones (L) 3B
9. Johnny Cueto (R) RHP