Giants spring training Day 31: Bumgarner dominates in lengthy outing

Giants spring training Day 31: Bumgarner dominates in lengthy outing

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants had Madison Bumgarner set for four or five innings on Wednesday. The ace blew right past that in one of the most efficient outings you’ll see in a Cactus League game. 

Bumgarner allowed just one hit over six scoreless innings and he worked so quickly that the Giants actually had to come up short of his scheduled pitch count. As he hit the 70-pitch mark, Bumgarner had already thrown six innings and taken two at-bats. 

“Every time out it’s a little better, a little better,” he said. “Today was by far the best. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.”

If Bumgarner looks this sharp on March 15, what will he do until the April 2 opener? Perhaps, he’ll turn to his other on-field passion. Bumgarner was 0-for-2 as the first Giants pitcher to hit this spring, striking out twice and throwing his bat into the stands down the third-base line on one swing. How did he grade the first day in the batter’s box?

“Pretty not very good,” he said. 

Manager Bruce Bochy had Bumgarner hitting eighth, and he said it’s something he’ll look at in the regular season if the Giants have multiple speedy leadoff types in the lineup. That process will ramp up in the coming weeks, as pitchers take more and more at-bats and start to get back into the flow. On the mound, Bochy doesn’t need to see much more. 

“That’s just a great outing for him,” Bochy said. “He pounded the strike zone and had everything going. You look at an outing like today and you think he’s ready, but he needs a couple more outings. He’ll tell you that.”

CUETO WATCH: Over at the minor league facility, Johnny Cueto also looked to be near regular season form. Making his second appearance of the spring, Cueto allowed two hits and struck out three in 3 2/3 innings. He threw 53 pitches. 

Cueto still has not fully ruled out a WBC cameo. There’s a small chance that he joins the Dominican Republic team for the final round. 

LINEUP CHANGE? Bochy had Eduardo Nuñez hitting second and Joe Panik seventh against lefty Tyler Skaggs, and he said the staff is talking about that as an option for real games. 

“Nuney, you saw what he did today,” Bochy said. 

Nuñez manufactured the first run of the day, doubling in the sixth and stealing third ahead of an RBI groundout by Mac Williamson. He hit righties better last season, but his .751 OPS was still way ahead of Panik’s .596. 

HIGHLIGHT REEL: Nuñez and Panik teamed up for a nifty double play to end the third inning. Nuñez snagged Yunel Escobar’s grounder and made a tricky overhand throw from the ground to Panik, who hung in on the bag and made a strong throw to first. They’ll have easier opportunities later this spring. Bochy said he’s going to get Nuñez a few starts at shortstop.

STARTER WATCH: Ty Blach’s first inning out of the bullpen was a nightmare: Five straight hits and four Angels runs. Bochy seemed more interested in what happened next. Blach came out for the eighth and cruised.

“What I like about it is the next inning he goes out and really has a solid inning,” Bochy said. “He didn’t let it fluster him.”

In the race for the No. 5 spot — which has tightened up quite a bit — Blach didn’t do himself any favors Wednesday, but he certainly showed some mettle. 

STOCK RISING: Michael Morse crushed a double off the left-center wall that was about two feet from being a homer and he later added a tie-breaking single. His spring average is up to .304 with a 1.016 OPS, and he’s moving well at first base.  

“Mo is swinging it well,” Bochy said. “He’s really seeing the ball well. It’s evident he worked hard to come in and try to make the club.”

Another couple of weeks like this might do it. After a slow start, Morse has five hits in his past three games, including two homers. 

“Early on, everything was there but I was just missing off the end of the bat,” he said. “Now I’m seeing the ball deeper and getting it on the barrel more.”

 

Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

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Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

SAN FRANCISCO — About 45 minutes after the Giants announced that Chris Marrero had been designated for assignment, the left fielder walked up to the locker of one of the newcomers. Marrero patted Christian Arroyo on the back and shook his hand, congratulating him for his first call-up to the big leagues. 

“That’s my boy,” he said later. “I was really happy for him.”

The Arroyo promotion and the addition of Drew Stubbs signaled the end of Marrero’s April run in the lineup. He was cut and Aaron Hill was put on the disabled list, clearing two roster spots. Just as Arroyo forced his way up with three huge weeks in Triple-A, Marrero forced his way onto the opening day roster with a monster spring that included eight homers. He had just five hits in 38 at-bats before Monday’s moves.

“The team is struggling and we’ve got to make some moves,” Marrero said. “I believe in myself and I’ll go down and get back to how I felt in spring training. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I lost the feel that I had in the spring. Things were a little rushed. I came in and worked hard every day to try and find it. I’m going to keep working. I haven’t lost confidence in myself.”

Marrero was put in a bit of a tough spot. He played just about every day in Scottsdale because he was trying to win a job, and when he finally did make it, some Giants coaches felt he was a bit worn down. The team’s brutal start to the season put a glaring spotlight on left field, and this move became obvious over time.

Marrero said he likes it here, and that if he isn’t claimed, he will go to Triple-A Sacramento and try to find that spring swing and get back up here. Count Bruce Bochy among those hoping it goes down that way. 

“We thought a lot of him and still do,” Bochy said. “He’s a good hitter.”

--- Arroyo had a 4.4 GPA in high school, so the Giants knew he was smart. He’s savvy, too. There’s nothing like picking up the longest-tenured player on the team, literally. After snagging a ricochet in the fourth inning last night, Arroyo kept running and lifted Cain off the grass. They then chest-bumped. 

“That just kind of happened,” Arroyo said. “He hit it, I looked at Cain going down and saw the ball, went running and got it, instincts took over. I made a throw and got the guy. It was a fun play. In that moment, I was just pumped up. It’s one of those plays you get excited over.”

Arroyo said he heard Cain yelling and he thought he was hurt, so that’s why he ran over. Cain did have an X-ray on the foot that got hit but it came back negative. 

“Christian did a great job handling himself,” Cain said. “He picked me up big-time.”

The best part of the play came hours after it was made. As Cain talked to reporters, Brandon Crawford — who was in position to scoop the grounder in the fourth — was standing at his locker, a few feet away.

“Let it go through next time,” he said softly.

--- Denard Span was out on the field Monday afternoon, but he’ll miss another two to four days with that right shoulder injury. This will truly be a day-to-day situation. If at any point the Giants feel they need coverage, Span can be put on the 10-day DL. 

--- Hill apparently felt discomfort after playing long toss on the road trip. He can swing a bat but he was going to be kept from throwing for three to four days, so he was put on the DL.

--- This spring, Posey was asked about facing Sergio Romo. Here was his long tendencies-filled answer. Posey faced Romo in the eighth and flied out. 

"It was a little weird, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I caught him for so long. It's definitely interesting being in the batter's box instead of being the plate."

Was there a nod or "hey what's up" look between the two?

"I've caught him long enough to know you don't look at him," Posey said, smiling. 

--- If you missed it, the standing ovation for Romo was a very, very cool moment. Also, here's my story on Madison Bumgarner, who spoke for the first time since his injury. And here's the first story on Arroyo, with a fun anecdote about his mom. She'll be in the stands Tuesday. And finally, my game story from last night. 

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

SAN FRANCISCO — In the second inning Tuesday, as Christian Arroyo strapped on his gear and grabbed his bat, Buster Posey looked over at Matt Cain. 

“Goodness,” he said. “He looks really young.”

There was a time when that was said about Cain, now 32, and Posey, now 30. They broke in as fresh-faced kids, too, but these days they’re the grizzled vets, anchors of a clubhouse that got some fresh blood on Monday. Arroyo brought the energy to AT&T Park and Cain and Posey did the rest. 

The starter, in the midst of a surprising resurgence, threw six dominant innings against the visiting Dodgers. Posey threw one runner out at second to end the eighth and back-picked Justin Turner at second with two down in the ninth, clinching a 2-1 win that felt like a must-have in the clubhouse. 

“I mean, we needed it,” Posey said. “I don’t think you can underscore it. We definitely needed it.”

The front office sensed that after a sweep at Coors Field. After weeks of saying the Giants had to be patient with Arroyo, Bobby Evans pulled the trigger Monday morning. Drew Stubbs was also added to temporarily take over in center. The message was clear: A sense of urgency was needed throughout the organization, and the players responded with perhaps their cleanest game of the year. 

Cain did the heavy lifting, allowing just two hits and a walk before his right hamstring bit. He was pulled while warming up in the seventh, but he’s optimistic. Cain missed two weeks last year with the same injury, but he said it’s not as bad this time around. 

“Last year it was something that was definitely more on my mind when I did it,” he said. “I pushed too hard. I thought we were being a lot smarter today.”

The bullpen backed Cain, with Steven Okert, George Kontos, Derek Law (who allowed a run but shut down further damage) and Mark Melancon carrying it home. Melancon ran into some trouble in the ninth when Turner alertly took second on a spiked curveball. With Adrian Gonzalez up, the Dodgers were a single away from tying it up. Turner strayed too far off the bag and Posey gunned him down.

“It was just instinct,” he said. “He was anticipating a ball being put in play and took that one or two extra stutter steps. 

Melancon emphatically yelled on the mound. Cain watched the final out from the trainer’s room. The win was his first over the Dodgers in four seasons, and while on the mound, Cain lowered his ERA to a staff-best 2.42.

“He did a great job locating his fastball,” Posey said. “He threw his curveball for strikes, expanded the zone with his fastball, mixed some changeups in. He did a nice job.”

The approach looks sustainable, and the Giants need it. Madison Bumgarner had another MRI on Monday and while the Giants don’t have a firm timetable yet, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that it will “be a while.” 

In the meantime, the Giants will try to find a mix that works. Hunter Pence was moved up to leadoff Monday and he drove in a needed insurance run. The infield trio of Brandon Crawford, Arroyo and Joe Panik combined for the first run, with Crawford doubling, Arroyo moving him over, and Panik skying a ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly. 

Bochy praised Arroyo for his approach in that moment, and the rookie said he was focused hard on getting Crawford over. It was the kind of at-bat the Giants teach in the minors, and they hope more is on the way. The Triple-A squad is more talented than it’s been in years, and with big leaguers continuing to drop, the depth will be needed. 

As he got dressed Monday night, Arroyo rattled off facts from the night’s River Cats game and talked about how much he believes in the players there. He’s part of a wave that’s coming slowly, a group that includes Ty Blach, who faces a monumental task Tuesday. The young left-hander will go up against Clayton Kershaw as the Giants try to keep the momentum going.

“We’ve got our hands full tomorrow,” Bochy said. “We know it. I thought tonight was huge for us to stop things.”