FILE - In this April 9, 2016, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner (40) hits a solo home run in front of Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis during the second inning of a baseball game in San Francisco. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said he plans to use his slugging pitcher Bumgarner instead of a designated hitter Thursday, June 30, 2016, night when the Giants visit the Oakland Athletics. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Bruce Bochy all but had his mind made up days ago: Madison Bumgarner would hit in an AL ballpark for interleague rather than using a designated hitter.
All the San Francisco Giants manager had to do was ask the ace pitcher himself, knowing full well the big left-hander would want to swing the bat. At first, MadBum thought Bochy was joking, then quickly said: ''No, I'd love to. I'd rather hit.''
Bumgarner was in the lineup batting ninth for the finale of a four-game Bay Bridge Series against lefty Dillon Overton and the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night as San Francisco tried to avoid a sweep.
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''This wasn't a tough call for me, the way he swings the bat, the numbers, facing a left-hander,'' Bochy said. ''All of these things came into play. It's nothing against our guys, but he's a pretty good hitter and it's a pretty good matchup. … It keeps him in the game, the flow of his normal game being in the National League. He was all for it. And he would have been fine the other way. He didn't come to me, he didn't push for it. I went to him and said, `Hey, I'm thinking about letting you hit for yourself and not use the DH.'''
It will be the first time a team intentionally used a pitcher to hit instead of a DH since the Chicago White Sox allowed Ken Brett to do it in 1976 – the Rays were forced to bat pitcher Andy Sonnanstine in 2009 because of a lineup card mix-up.
''That's a long time,'' A's manager Bob Melvin said. ''I would love to have someone like that you could plug into the lineup depending on what your roster looked like. Not too many guys like him. I don't know what that feels like. They're a little banged up, too. He's got some power, swings the bat well. He's a real hitter, so he's not the kind of guy that you're consistently looking to try to get to the bottom of the order so you can walk somebody to get to him.''
Bumgarner is batting .175 this season with two homers and five RBIs in 40 at-bats. He has nine homers in 183 at-bats the past three seasons, a rate that would lead to about 36 home runs if he had a full season as a hitter. Bumgarner has even made a public plea to enter into the All-Star Home Run Derby, but Bochy said that idea is now off the table.
The players' union didn't want a Derby slot being taken by a pitcher, Bochy said, but the plan is to review the idea again of having a pitchers' derby.
''There is no Home Run Derby for Madison,'' Bochy said. ''It's been nixed.''