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.
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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.