Black Friday: How do the Giants survive without Madison Bumgarner?

Bum2014You’ve heard of Orange Fridays, right San Francisco Giants fans?

Well, April 21, 2017 was Black Friday for the Giants.

First came news that – actually when I saw the first tweet about this I thought it was a joke, a bad, bad joke – that Madison Bumgarner would be placed on the disabled list with sprained pitching shoulder and bruised ribs sustained in a dirt-bike accident during the Giants off day Thursday in Denver.

Then, on Friday night, when Giants fans needed a glimmer of hope to raise their spirits, the Giants lost in particularly painful fashion to the Colorado Rockies.

It started with the Giants’ team bus backing into a parked car on the way to Coors Field.

First the Giants teased their fans by taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to contributions from players who hadn’t contributed much of anything over the last week (or three weeks) – Eduardo Nunez, Chris Marrero and Denard Span.

But that all unraveled in the fourth inning when the Rockies became the first National League time in 67 years to hit a grand slam and an inside-the-park home run in the same inning. And just to make matters more painful, in 29 other big-league parks, both home runs likely would have landed in the glove of Hunter Pence.

The first was Trevor Story’s grand slam to right, which off the bat looked like a routine fly ball to right. But it kept carrying to the short porch to right – a lot like Miguel Cabrera’s home run in the 2012 World Series – for a grand slam. It was the first grand slam that Johnny Cueto has allowed in his career.

Later in the inning, Charlie Blackmon hit a line to Pence in right. Pence, fighting the lights the entire way, slipped on the soggy turf and the ball shot past him for a two-run inside-the-parker. To make matters even more fun, Pence said his knee was “a little twisted” on the play. Pence was out of the lineup Saturday.

But the fun didn’t end there. The Giants were in position to tie the game in the eighth with two on and nobody out. Bruce Bochy pulled back Conor Gillaspie as the pinch hitter and sent up Gorkys Hernandez with his .067 batting average (0-for-23 since the 2nd day of the season) to bunt.

Hernandez took two balls, tried to take a third but couldn’t get out of the way and the high-and-tight pitch went off his bat for a foul ball. Then with a 2-1 count, he TOOK a strike instead of bunting, then flied to right. The Giants didn’t score.

And it does not stop there. Melvin Upton Jr., signed to a minor-league deal to add depth to the Giants’ suffering outfield, was hit on the hand with a pitch at extended spring training. He’ll be out eight weeks after having surgery.


It all left Giants fans asking one question: Now what?

And by “now what” they meant what will the Giants do without their best pitcher for two months.

Two months. That’s estimated time Bumgarner will be out, according to a couple of national baseball writers.

But Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle says such estimates are pure projections until Bumgarner is seen by the team doctor. That won’t happen until next week.

In the short term, the Giants called up Chris Stratton from Triple-A Sacramento fill Bumgarner’s spot on the roster. Stratton will be used in relief, likely just long relief as he has been starting for the RiverCats.

Ty Blach will take Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation on Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

For anyone looking for a ray of sunshine, the last time Blach and Kershaw went head-to-head on Oct. 1 of last season, Blach held the Dodgers to no runs on three hits over eight innings as the Giants won 3-0.

Blach has been pitching out of the bullpen this season, allowing three runs (all earned) on two hits and three walks over 5.2 innings. However, three runs, two hits and two walks came in one outing in Arizona. Take that out,and Blach has thrown 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk.

But replacing Bumgarner isn’t about replacing him strikeout for strikeout, earned run for earned run.

It’s about giving the Giants the chance to win.

As I mentioned, tongue in cheek, in a tweet: “Just remember that without Bumgarner, the Giants would be 6-10 right now.”

That’s because that Giants are 0-4 in Bumgarner starts this season — not that any of that was Bumgarner’s fault.

But last season, the Giants were 20-14 in Bumgarner’s start, which is on par for most seasons. They were 19-13 in his starts in 2015 and 2012, 20-13 in 2014 and 11-7 in 2010.

So 20-14 is a .588 winning percentage. Now if Bumgarner misses two months, that would be about 12 starts.

To maintain a .588 winning percentage over those 12 starts, the Giants would need to 7-5 in the starts that Blach (or potentially Tyler Beede) makes during Bumgarner’s turn in the rotation.

That doesn’t seem unattainable.

Baseball is a team sport. And when one players goes down, it’s up to the team to pick up the slack.

If the Giants could stay in the playoff hunt well into September without Buster Posey in 2011, they could certainly stay in the mix until late June without Bumgarner.

But they need contributions from up and down the roster. That includes the five players who were projected to make up the Giants’ bench when the season started – Nick Hundley, Aaron Hill, Conor Gillaspie, Chris Marrero and Gorkys Hernandez.

Right now, only Hundley (.257) is holding up his end of the bargain. The other four have combined to hit .126.


Buster Posey is back, Bruce Bochy is out as Giants return to Kansas City


The San Francisco Giants are back in Kansas City, seeking some good karma.

And the last time the Giants were in K.C., there was a lot of good feelings, plus technology and stuff.

The Giants make their first appearance at Kaufman Stadium since beating the Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with a historic performance from Madison Bumgarner.

But that was 2.5 years ago, and things are not going so well for the Giants now.

They are 5-9, in last place in the NL West, their starting left fielder is out more than two months with a broken collarbone, their best player hasn’t been in the lineup in more than a week, they haven’t won a game this year started by their ace Bumgarner, and now their manager is out after having a procedure performed on his heart.

Bruce Bochy will miss the series in Kansas City after having a minor heart procedure (yeah, we say “minor” because it wasn’t our heart that the procedure was being performed on) to alleviate some discomfort he was experiencing due to an atrial flutter. He will rest at home for a couple of days before rejoining the club Friday in Colorado.

Ron Wotus will assume managerial duties in Kansas City. And if you’re looking for a good sign through all this gloom, Wotus has a good record as Giants skipper. Last season, when Bochy was admitted to a Miami hospital for an undisclosed illness, Wotus took over the reins and led the Giants to an 8-7 win over the Marlins in 14 innings during which Brandon Crawford became the first MLB player in 41 years to get seven hits in a game.

And if you want more good news, Buster Posey is back.


Posey was activated off the 7-day concussion disabled list and will bat fourth in the lineup vs. the Royals as the designated hitter. Posey said he was unsure if he would catch Bumgarner on Wednesday or not. It’s probably a wait-and-see thing.

The Giants didn’t announce a corresponding move to make room for Buster on the 25-man roster. But we can assume that Tim Federowicz will be designated for assignment. The Giants hope he clears waivers and will return to Sacramento for added depth.

In unsurprising move, Bruce Bochy sticking with Matt Cain after solid outing

Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Before Wednesday’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was noncommittal about the prospect of skipping Matt Cain’s spot in the rotation next week when the Giants have off days around a two-game series in Kansas City.
But the Giants beat writers seemed pretty certain that they would.



But I was less certain.

In fact, I wasn’t even so sure that if Wednesday’s game had been rained out – it was a soggy, windy night – that Bochy would not have skipped Cain and started Madison Bumgarner on his normal rest on Thursday.

But the game was played and afterwards Bochy was unequivocal – Cain will start next Tuesday in Kansas City after giving up one run on five hits and three walks over five-plus innings of work.

“I think you have to (change your thinking), the way he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “His command, he had four pitches going tonight, he had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well. He found a way to get it done.

“I thought that was just a huge outing for him and a good one to build on.”

In his report for the San Jose Mercury News, Andrew Baggarly hit the nail on the head when he wrote “When a manager has a predilection for loyalty, he doesn’t need to see much to be convinced.”

Bochy said of Cain: “Well, I think it’s something he’s earned. You look at what he’s done for us. We’ve got some championships because of this guy. Some guys earn certain things.

“I go back to Barry Zito. He had his ups and downs, but we stayed with him, and he helped us win a World Series (in 2012), with those starts at St. Louis and then against Detroit. I feel the same about Matty. I think we all do. He’s well-liked. He’s a Giant. He’s a big part of our success. He deserves a longer look.”

But it’s more than loyalty. Yes, Bochy has struck with struggling veteran pitchers with a long track record with the club like Cain, Zito and Barry Zito. But in the past, he has also chosen not to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation regardless of who is pitching in that spot. He just doesn’t like to do it.

But in this particular case, it seems to make good sense, even before Cain’s solid effort on Wednesday.

By staying on turn and pitching Cain next Tuesday – and again a week from Sunday — it means the Giants will send their top four into the series against the Dodgers – Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija. That includes two lefties against the lefty-vulnerable Dodgers.

Looking even farther into the future, if the Giants stay one turn, they would throw Moore, Samardzija and Cain against the Dodgers on May 1-3 in Los Angeles.

Bochy has said that, while he prefers to keep his pitchers on turn, he would consider inserting lefty Ty Blach into the rotation in certain situations. May 3 in Los Angeles could be such a situation.

But that’s a long way off. And for now, with Cain in the rotation, it allows Blach to remain in the pen as the Giants’ lone lefty.

While Cain, the Giants and Bochy were buoyed by Cain’s start on Wednesday, it’s important to remember that in recent years the key to Cain’s success has been his ability to keep the ball in the yard.

On a cold, wet, windy night, the chances of anyone hitting the ball over a wall were not good. And that helped Cain.

Last season, in starts in which he did not allow a home run (excluding an injury-shortened start in Colorado), Cain was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA. His lone loss came in a game in which he got “Cained” – the Giants lost 3-0.

So pitching at home helped Cain. But dating back to 2015, Cain has allowed 18 home runs in his last 15 road starts, excluding the injury-shortened start.

Cain’s next two starts come on the road – in Kansas City and (gulp!) Colorado.

We told you so: Giants place Buster Posey on 7-day concussion DL

Bruce Bochy, Buster Posey

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, checks Buster Posey on the ground at home plate after he was hit by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 10, 2017, in San Francisco. Posey was taken out of the game. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

We hate to say “we told you so” but we told you so.

Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants placed Buster Posey on the 7-day concussion disabled list and called up Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Sacramento.

To make room for Federowicz on the 40-man roster, pitcher Clayton Blackburn was designated for assignment.

We sort of predicted this move on Monday.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.19.05 PM

The one surprise in this move is the choice of Clayton Blackburn as the player to be DFAd.

A 16th-round pick out of Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe High School, Blackburn became one the Giants’ top pitching prospects. Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball Prospectus listed him as the 95th best prospect in baseball.

After posting a 10-4 season with a 3.37 ERA with Triple-A Sacramento in 2015, it was thought that Blackburn could see time with the Giants in 2016. That didn’t really materialized, although Blackburn did spend four days with the big club last May, never seeing any game action.

Blackburn went 7-10 with 4.36 ERA for the RiverCats last season.

It’s not unheard of that players DFAd could clear waivers and return to Sacramento. It happened to Chris Heston two seasons ago. He later returned to throw a no-hitter for the Giants.

In the meantime, it will be Hundley as the Giants’ No. 1 catcher with Federowicz the backup for at least the next week.

Here’s another prediction. The best-case scenario for the Giants is for Posey to spend the next week resting up and be ready to return April 18 in Kansas City. Posey could then DH for two games before returning behind the plate on April 21 in Colorado.

The worst-case scenario? Well, with concussions, it’s hard to say.

Buster Posey “doing good … fine” after beaning; Giants doing fine after winning home opener

San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey, right, goes falling after getting hit by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 10, 2017, in San Francisco. At left is Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis. Posey was taken out of the game after being hit. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It was yet another Happy Home Opener for the Giants on Monday. Well mostly happy.

It got a little scary in the first inning when Buster Posey was hit on the top of the head with Taijuan Walker fastball.

The ball hit Posey on the top, back part of the batting helmet. He sat on the ground for a while, adjusting his jaw. Trainer Dave Groeschner talked to Posey for a bit, then escorted the Giants catcher off the field, walking under his own power.

Given the Giants’ experience with concussions – last season Joe Panik had a DL stint after being hit in the head with a pitch from Matt Moore when the lefty was pitching with the Rays – it was not surprising for the Giants to take the cautious approach.

After the Giants’ game – a 4-1 win over over the Diamondbacks – Giants manager said Bruce Bochy said Posey was “doing good, he’s doing fine,” adding that if Posey weren’t a catcher, he might have been OK to stay in the game.

Translation: Given the number of foul tips catchers take off the mask in a normal season, the Giants were taking no chances with a pitch to the noggin.

Bochy said Posey is likely to sit out Tuesday game. And considering that backup Nick Hundley has been catching Matt Cain, Wednesday’s starter, most of the spring, we can expect the Giants to take the very cautious route and give Posey Wednesday off as well.

“It’s a scary moment, dangerous moment,” Bochy said. “It’s one of the worst sounds you can hear in baseball, the ball hitting the helmet. It’s a scary moment. There’s been a lot of damage to hitters hit in the head.”

True, and sometimes that damage is not quickly revealed.

When Panik was plunked in the head by Moore, he bounced right up and headed down to first base, remaining in the game. It wasn’t until eight days later when Panik complained of not being able to track pitches that the Giants placed him on the concussion disabled list. He spent a month on the DL.

So if Posey ends up just missing two-plus games, that would be great. But don’t be surprised if the Giants decide in a day or so  to place Posey on the 7-day concussion DL. That would sideline him through the last six games of his homestand and be ready to return on April 18 for a two-day series at Kansas City.

It would also require someone the Giants clearing a spot on the 40-man roster to clear room for catcher Tim Federowicz, who is currently at Triple-A Sacramento.

We’ll wait and see.

Also we learned that Aaron Hill is next in the line of catchers for the Giants behind Posey and Nick Hundley.

“He just found out today,” Bochy said. “Found out late.”

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate another win in the home opener, making it eight wins of the past nine.

Matt Moore was excellent, limiting the Diamdondbacks on one run on three hits over eight innings. Mark Melancon came on in the ninth to record his second save in two days.

Moore also had the biggest “hit” of the season.

Coming to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, Moore hit a swinging bunt to the right of the mound. Walker fielded the ball and threw wildly to the plate in an effort to get Brandon Crawford trying to score. The wild throw allowed Joe Panik to score. Catcher Jeff Mathis’ errant throw trying to get Panik allowed Jarrett Parker to score all the way from first on a ball that traveled 45 feet.

The play was set up by Parker drawing a walk right before Panik. Parker later added his first hit of the season in the sixth.

The Giants also went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. But the Giants got the win, and that’s all the matter.

And we’ll just wait and see about Buster.

Happy Home Opener? It’s been that way six of past seven seasons for Giants

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It’s been eight years since the San Francisco Giants have opened the season at home.

That’s by choice by the Giants. They’d rather play games at home later in the season than earlier, so they are willing to give Opening Day to other clubs.

But it’s worked for the Giants. In the seven home openers since the Giants’ last Opening Day at home, they have won six times — twice in walk-off fashion.

What kind of excitement will the home opener in 2017 bring? Who knows, but let’s take a look at the past seven home openers.

April 7, 2016 – GIANTS 12, DODGERS 6

Jake Peavy made the start as the Dodgers took a 4-0 lead in the fifth before the Giants scored three in the fifth and four in the sixth to rally. Joe Panik and Buster Posey were 3 for 5, and Hunter Pence went deep.


April 13, 2015 – ROCKIES 2, GIANTS 0

After seven games on the road in Arizona and San Diego (sound familiar?), the Giants hoisted their 2014 World Series championship banner. Then they were shut out by Eddie Butler and four relievers as the Giants would lose their first five home games of 2015, part of an eight-game losing streak.

April 8, 2014 – GIANTS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 3

The Giants scored twice in the first inning, Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run — batting in the No. 2 hole — and Tim Hudson won his AT&T Park Giants debut.


April 5, 2013 – GIANTS 1, CARDINALS 0

The Giants raised their 2012 World Series banner, then shut out the Cardinals as Barry Zito re-created his gem from Game 5 on the National League Championship Series from the previous fall.

April 13, 2012 – GIANTS 5, PIRATES 0

The Giants scored twice in the first inning and Matt Cain did the rest, throwing a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.


April 8, 2011 – GIANTS 5, CARDINALS 4, 12 inn.

The Giants hoisted their 2010 World Series banner, then pulled out the first of two back-to-back walk-off wins as Aaron Rowand, again, singled home Nate Schierholtz in the bottom of the 11th.

April 9, 2010 — GIANTS 5, BRAVES 4, 13 inn.

Trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Edgar Renteria offered a preview of future heroics with a two-run home run off Braves closer Billy Wagner to tie. In the 13th run, Aaron Rowand singled home Juan Uribe with two outs for the walk-off win.

Seeking outfield help, San Francisco Giants reportedly sign Melvin Upton Jr.

Toronto Blue Jays’ Melvin Upton Jr., center, celebrates his two-run home run with teammate Jared Saltalamacchia as Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher Elias Diaz looks on during the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game in Montreal on Saturday, April 1, 2017. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Almost one week into the season, the San Francisco Giants have discovered that maybe Chris Marrero isn’t their best option in left field against left-handed pitching.

Heading into Saturday’s game against the San Diego Padres, Giants left fielders collectively — and that includes Marrero, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Aaron Hill — are 0 for 20 with 10 strikeouts, one walk and one sacrifice fly.

By comparison, Giants pitchers are 3 for 10 with just four strikeouts.

With other options like Michael Morse and Mac Williamson still battling injuries and maybe a month away from being options, the Giants continued to seek out alternatives.

On Saturday, they found one in Melvin Upton Jr. (aka B.J. Upton).

Upton was released by the Blue Jays out of spring training last week. And when that happened, the Giants didn’t appear interested. Instead, they signed Drew Stubbs, who released by the Twins.

But when Marrero’s early struggles led manager Bruce Bochy to give Aaron Hill his first career start in left field on Friday, it became clear the Giants would need to explore other options.

And that led them to sign Upton.

Upton has had a very up-and-down career. After a solid start with the Rays, his move to the National League was a disaster during his two seasons with the Braves, with whom he hit .184 and .208 in 2013 and 2014.

Things got better when he moved to San Diego, where he hit .259 in 2015 and .256 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 92 games with the Padres before being traded in a deadline deal to Toronto. Things didn’t go so well there. He hit just .196 in 57 games for the Jays before being released at the end of spring training this season.

Upton not only gives the Giants a right-handed hitting option to throw into the left field mix, but he’s also made more than 1,112 career starts in center, providing some needed depth there.

According to Twitter reports, Upton signed a minor-league deal with the Giants and will report to Triple-A Sacramento to shake off some of the rust.