Giants send struggling Bumgarner to Triple-A

Leave a comment

Sporting a 27-5 record and 1.65 ERA in the minors Madison Bumgarner ranked 14th on Baseball America‘s annual list of the game’s top prospects and began spring training as the favorite to claim the final spot in San Francisco’s rotation.
Unfortunately the 20-year-old southpaw showed up at Giants camp with his fastball topping out in the 80s, continuing a worrisome trend from late last season when his velocity dropped from mid-90s to low-90s.
Bumgarner appeared in three spring games, tossing seven innings with a 6.43 ERA, zero strikeouts, and seven walks, and this afternoon the Giants optioned him to Triple-A.
Obviously something isn’t right with Bumgarner physically, but setting that aside there’s certainly no harm in letting a 20-year-old spend some time at Triple-A before handing him a rotation spot. In this case the move not only gives Bumgarner some additional minor-league seasoning and likely allows the Giants to eventually push his free agency back another year, it lets him try to work out the kinks in a low-pressure environment.
Now that Bumgarner is out of the picture, for a bit at least, Todd Wellemeyer is likely to begin the season as the Giants’ fifth starter. Wellemeyer is almost a dozen years Bumgarner’s senior and has 191 more games of big-league experience, but he’s also a question mark after an injury wrecked 2009. However, he’s looked healthy this spring and went 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Cardinals in 2008.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

Getty Images
Leave a comment

All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉