Bumgarner has the scouts buzzing

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Bumgarner has the scouts buzzing

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Here is the difference with MadisonBumgarner:

Last spring, he couldnt complete five innings in a CactusLeague start. On Sunday, he did it with apparent ease against the San DiegoPadres and used so few pitches, he had to mosey down to the bullpen to throw20 more.

Did we mention theres still two weeks to go before theGiants head north?

In a rotation with pitching luminaries Tim Lincecum and MattCain, its Bumgarner who has the scouts buzzing. Its been suggested by morethan one seasoned observer that Bumgarner could be the Giants best startingpitcher this season.

No wonder manager Bruce Bochy didnt blink at making the22-year-old left-hander his No.2 starter.

Its nice to hear, said Bumgarner, informed what thescouts are jotting down about him. Its still spring training, though. Itsprobably better than what they were saying last year at this time.

He didnt like the way he threw the ball last spring?

Well, I dont know, he said, in his slow drawl. If youlike ERAs in the 8s, I guess.

It wasnt quite that bad. But it wasnt good. Bumgarner hada few brilliant outings but struggled in others, finishing last spring with a4.76 ERA in six games (four starts).

He didnt necessarily build momentum to opening day, either.There was the March 20 start when he threw 40 pitches, made a throwing error tothird base and didnt escape the second inning. The next time out March 25, he gotpounded for eight runs in 4 13 innings.

He had a 6.17 ERA in five starts in April, and even thoughhe started to turn things around in May, it wasnt reflected in his record.

This spring, Bumgarner looks determined to avoid starting0-6, as he did a year ago. And the innings totals are going in the rightdirection.

Its gotta be pretty good if you can go longer each time,Bumgarner said. But Im not worried about any starts at all in springtraining.

Bumgarner doesnt have much to worry about. In four starts,he has a 2.45 ERA and a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 23 innings.

Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs at White House

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AP

Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs at White House

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama welcomed the Chicago Cubs to the White House on Monday to celebrate their World Series win and speak to the power of sports to unite a divided nation.

"Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided," Obama said in honoring his hometown team.

The ceremony came four days before Obama hands the presidency over to Donald Trump following one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

It also follows a weekend in which civil rights icon John Lewis said he didn't consider Trump a legitimate president because of Russian meddling in the election. Trump responded on Twitter by criticizing Lewis as "all talk" and suggesting the Democratic congressman take better care of his Georgia district.

The president has a home in Chicago, but he is a White Sox fan. He rooted for the Cubs after the Sox failed to reach the playoffs.

The Cubs gave Obama a baseball jersey with the number 44, a fitting gift for the nation's 44th president.

Obama invited the Cubs hours after they won the series in November, asking on Twitter if the team wanted to visit before his term ends on Friday.

The Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908 by defeating the Cleveland Indians.

Giants avoid arbitration with Nunez, Smith, Kontos

Giants avoid arbitration with Nunez, Smith, Kontos

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants avoided arbitration with three more veterans on Friday, agreeing to one-year deals with third baseman Eduardo Nuñez, left-hander Will Smith and right-hander George Kontos.

Financial details were not immediately available. MLB Trade Rumors' projections put Nuñez at about $4.4 million, Smith at about $2.3 million, and Kontos at about $1.7 million. The Giants reached deals with all six arbitration eligible players this offseason. 

Nunez, acquired last summer, will enter camp as the starter at third base. He posted a .269/.327/.418 slash line and 12 stolen bases after coming over from the Twins.

Smith was also acquired before the trade deadline, and he had a 2.95 ERA in 26 appearances for the Giants. He is expected to play a pivotal role in setting up for new closer Mark Melancon. 

Kontos has long been Bruce Bochy's most reliable reliever in the middle innings and he could move to a higher-leverage role in a revamped bullpen. He had a 2.53 ERA in 2016, his fifth season with the Giants.

The Giants had previously reached one-year deals with Cory Gearrin, Ehire Adrianza and Conor Gillaspie. They have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when a deal could not be reached with A.J. Pierzynski.