Mike Bauman

Bumgarner relieved for nearly pain-free return

Giants ace says ailing rib cage, foot 'better than expected'

Bumgarner relieved for nearly pain-free return

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There was polite applause for Madison Bumgarner as he left Saturday's Cactus League game against the Oakland A's.

But this token of esteem from the Giants fans gathered in the crowd of 12,095 at Scottsdale Stadium probably had more to do with appreciation for past heroics than with anything that occurred in this game, a 9-1 loss.

It also might have been the equivalent of a collective sigh of relief that Bumgarner was well enough to pitch in the first place. The big lefty had missed his previous start with discomfort in his rib cage and left foot.

Here, in 2 2/3 innings, Bumgarner gave up five earned runs on seven hits, including a two-run home run by Oakland designated hitter Billy Butler. On the plus side, Bumgarner issued no walks and struck out four.

The really essential news, though, was not bad at all: Bumgarner felt little discomfort with either the rib cage or foot.

"It felt even better than I expected," Bumgarner said. "That was a big plus for today."

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"He looked fine," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "His command wasn't real sharp, he was kind of in the same area, for those innings. Usually, he's really good at using all four quadrants [of the strike zone]. But he got his work in. So it was a good workout."

Bumgarner threw 60 pitches, 40 for strikes. He said he threw an additional five to seven pitches in the bullpen after leaving the game. So he got in the necessary level of work. These were all pluses. What, besides the pitching line itself, were the minuses?

"My delivery is terrible -- that's a minus," Bumgarner said with a slight chuckle. "No, it's not where I want it, but it's not too far off, either.

"Timing's a little off with the rhythm and then I'm opening up too soon, which probably plays a big part in the timing and the rhythm. Ideally, it'd be a pretty easy fix.

"I put so much work into my delivery; it's frustrating that it even happens. But it's just the facts of life. Stuff like that is going to happen. But I feel like I can turn that around. You might have to think about it for a few days, but I think about my delivery every time I go out there. I'm not one of the guys that throws all the stuff I've been working on the side when I get out there. I want to make sure that's right in the game, too. I feel like it keeps you from getting into bad habits quite as much."

Bumgarner said he expected to continue treatment on the rib cage and foot until the pain disappeared.

"We'll probably do it every day until it's completely gone for a long time, just to make sure it stays that way," he said. "Judging by the rate it's going right now, seems like it won't be long at all. But it didn't hinder me at all today. It felt really good, actually, it was really close to normal. The pain level wasn't much."

Bumgarner, an accomplished hitter, said he had not swung a bat since the rib cage became painful. The teams played American League rules Saturday, using designated hitters.

"There's no sense in taking a chance on that," Bumgarner said. "We'll just play that by feel and see. If I don't get to hit any until the regular season, that's fine, too. My main concern is on the mound."

"I miss him hitting," Bochy said, and you knew exactly what he meant.

After three Cactus League starts, Bumgarner has an ERA of 10.57. But this sort of number is not as important as the fact that Bumgarner is once again pitching nearly pain-free.

This is the ace of the staff, the hero of heroes in the 2014 postseason, a man who has given up one earned run in 36 innings of World Series work. You don't want to draw any conclusions based on 7 2/3 innings of exhibition pitching. The sample size is small. The games don't count. This pitcher is too good.

All those people who applauded him as he walked off the Scottsdale Stadium field after giving up five runs in 2 2/3 innings had the correct picture. If Madison Bumgarner can pitch like himself on Opening Day, both he and the Giants will be in fine shape.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.