SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants threw Christian Arroyo right into the fire. He’ll bat sixth on Monday in the season’s first meeting with the rival Dodgers, and while it’s grossly unfair, Arroyo will shoulder massive expectations given the way this season has started.
All of that should be a piece of cake given what Arroyo did early Monday afternoon. The 21-year-old convinced a skeptical mother that he was telling her the truth.
Arroyo found out around 1:30 p.m. that his dream of reaching the big leagues had been accomplished. After shedding a few tears in Triple-A manager Dave Brundage’s office and getting congratulated by teammates, he called his mom, Kimberly.
“She didn’t believe me,” he said, smiling. “I took a solid five minutes for her to believe me. She kept going, ‘You’re lying.’”
Arroyo’s mother is headed over from Florida, and she’ll be in the stands with other family members for Tuesday night’s game. The plan is for Arroyo to be at third base against Clayton Kershaw. The plan is for him to be at third base for years to come.
The Giants hoped Arroyo, who doesn’t turn 22 until next month, would spend a whole season in Triple-A, dealing with the occasional failures and conditioning his body for the grind of the Major Leagues. But two things happened when Arroyo reached Triple-A after another solid spring: He hit the cover off the ball, picking up 29 hits in 65 at-bats (including four on Sunday) and the team slumped to a 6-13 record.
Was this a case of the Giants needing a spark or Arroyo forcing his way into the lineup?
“Both,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Certainly with what he was doing down in Sacramento, he opened up a lot of eyes and we have a need right now. We’re challenged offensively. We need another guy to help out and the way he was swinging the bat made us push him more quickly than we were thinking about.”
Bochy said Arroyo will mostly play third, although he can also handle short and second. Eduardo Nuñez, the incumbent, will play primarily left field and hopefully fill the gaping hole there. Nuñez will also move around, and he is likely to play shortstop this week when Brandon Crawford goes on bereavement leave.
The Giants are coming off a 1-4 road trip where they scored just 10 runs. There will be pressure on the top prospect to help turn this around, but Bochy doesn’t think he’ll feel it.
“He’s a tough kid,” he said. “I had fun with him today, told him don’t be scared. He said, ‘I’m pumped.’ He’s excited to be here. He just needs to be himself.”
If Arroyo can keep doing that, he’ll be fine. The Giants have always viewed him as a huge cornerstone of their future, and that was again made clear on Monday. Arroyo was given No. 22 and tucked into a locker between Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Joe Panik is two lockers away. The hope is that the four lined up that way for years.
“It’s surreal at this moment,” Arroyo said. “I’m trying to take it all in.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Riding horses has always been part of Madison Bumgarner’s legacy, but there are times where his ride back home in North Carolina doesn’t have four legs. Bumgarner has been riding dirt bikes his whole life without incident, but a crash last week has left him facing a season of uncertainty.
Bumgarner addressed the media Monday, four days after an accident in the hills near Denver. He said he does not have a timetable for his return. The Giants have ordered more tests and expect to have a more concrete schedule by Tuesday or Wednesday. For now they are leaning on possibilities they hope to cross off.
Bumgarner does not anticipate having surgery to repair a left shoulder sprain. He does not think this is a season-ending injury.
“It’s hard to put a timetable on it, but I would certainly be disappointed if I wasn’t (back this season),” he said. “The only thing I’m putting my focus on now is busting my butt to rehab and make sure I’m back with the team.”
For now, that means rest and ice, and Bumgarner was scheduled to have another MRI on Monday. The Giants believe his shoulder is relatively sound structurally, and the consensus is that Bumgarner is lucky this wasn’t worse. He said the bike, a rental during the team’s off day, was similar to ones he has been on in the past. He was hours into a ride with two family members when he went down on dirt.
“I was actually being pretty safe the whole time,” Bumgarner said. “It was just a freak deal. We were on the way out, almost back to the truck … I wish I had some kind of cool story that it was some kind of crazy wreck. It wasn’t anything spectacular.”
Bumgarner has spoken to most of his teammates individually and in small groups. He understands that this is a bad look, and it’s a blow the Giants can’t afford.
“It’s terrible. It’s obviously not my intention when I set out to enjoy the off day,” he said. “I realize it’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made. It sucks not being out here with the guys.”
The Giants came home with a 6-13 record, and it was 6-10 the day Bumgarner got hurt. A night before, he had once again received no run support. Bumgarner is 0-4, but he said this was not a case of “blowing off steam” on a day off. It also is not a normal off-day activity for him, and it is not allowed under Bumgarner’s contract.
That won’t be an issue, however. There has been no talk of punishing Bumgarner, and any attempt to get back money would be a short-sighted move by the organization. Bumgarner is vastly underpaid by today’s baseball standards, and the Giants hope to negotiate a long-term extension in the years to come.
That deal will hinge largely on how Bumgarner recovers. The Giants cannot say for sure that Bumgarner will return as the same pitcher, because he already has a unique delivery that puts pressure on the shoulder. Trainer Dave Groeschner did not want to set expectations one way or the other, but he conceded that Bumgarner will be out “a little while.” At the very least, Bumgarner is looking at another week or two in the sling, and whenever he is cleared to throw, he will basically start his season from scratch.
“We’ll get him back throwing, but you’ve got to build him up to 100 pitches,” Groeschner said. “That takes time in itself."
Bumgarner has built up a reservoir of goodwill over the years, allowing this lengthy process to go down a bit easier. On top of what he had accomplished before Thursday, Bumgarner pleased team officials by being forthright. He knew something was wrong, and when he returned to the team hotel in Denver he immediately called Groeschner and admitted to what he had done. Other players — including Giants — have gotten caught in lies about injuries.
“That’s not who I am,” Bumgarner said. “If you’re going to do stuff like that, you’e got to be honest.”