Left-hander Madison Bumgarner enjoyed the flow of champagne over his head after San Francisco’s successful run to the World Series title two years ago, a mere three months after he reached legal drinking age.
He’s about to start his second full season in the majors this April and remains the youngest pitcher on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Despite this, Bumgarner is a model for some of the younger pitchers looking to reach the big leagues.
Bumgarner chose to sign with the Giants instead of attending North Carolina and it has worked out well for the 22-year-old. He’s still just five years out of high school, owns a World Series ring, and is considered one of the more accomplished pitchers on a staff that includes former Cy Young Award winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.
”He is one of our best conditioned guys,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ”He can definitely effect things, even as a 22-year-old. He’s a leader by example. Guys watch him go about his business and how he handles himself. He can influence these kids.”
Bumgarner credits his father, Kevin, for his even-keeled manner, which led former major league pitcher and current radio broadcaster Mike Krukow to call him a ”40-year-old in a 21-year-old body.”
”It was just the way I was raised,” Bumgarner said. ”I try to stay humble. I don’t know if it’s the right way but when I come into spring training, I feel like I want to earn a spot.”
Bumgarner began developing his own throwing program in the summer before his junior year in high school. It was about the same time he learned that major league scouts were becoming interested.
”It helped me make it easier to work hard,” said Bumgarner, who was 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA last year. ”I knew there was something to work toward. I signed with North Carolina but it was hard to turn down (the Giants’ offer). If I had gone to North Carolina, I wouldn’t have had won a World Series.”
The Giants may not have reached the postseason without Bumgarner, who was 7-6 in 18 starts, including wins in his last two decisions as San Francisco edged the San Diego Padres for the NL West Division title on the final day of the 2010 season. The Giants won 11 of his 18 starts. Bumgarner lost three games in which the Giants were shut out.
Bumgarner spends most of his offseason conditioning, and when he starts to throw off a mound, will work on everything in general and not one particular aspect, unless there’s a noticeable flaw. He’s also learned how to use weights from the Giants’ strength coaches.
He weighs about 25 pounds more now than when he first broke into professional ball at Single-A Augusta, where he also threw his first breaking ball.
”My dad would not let me throw anything but fastballs and change-ups through high school,” he said. ”He was big on that.”
Bumgarner said he felt he progressed at a steady pace, moving up a level every year until sticking with the Giants in 2010.
”I didn’t feel super fast or super slow,” Bumgarner said. ”They always gave me time to get comfortable wherever they sent me.”
Notes: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (back problems) threw at a distance of 75 feet off flat ground and could pitch off a mound in a week. … INF Freddy Sanchez fielded 25 ground balls hit right at him and also played catch. … INF Brett Pill took ground balls at 3B, though he will remain a left fielder-first baseman for the most part.