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.”