Last week I surmised that Giants prospect Madison Bumgarner’s significant drop in velocity and recent struggles meant “something clearly isn’t right with him physically” and Rob Neyer of ESPN.com took that conclusion a step further:
I’m afraid this goes beyond “something clearly isn’t right with him physically at this point.” I’m afraid he’s hurt.
I’m sure the Giants would tell you that they’ve run all sorts of tests and they can’t find anything and it’s just a mechanical thing, and blah blah blah I’ve heard it all before. This kid’s probably been lighting up radar guns since he was in the ninth grade, and now all of a sudden he’s throwing 87 and all he needs to do is keep his elbow a little higher during his delivery? Maybe. But probably not.
Of course, we’re just a couple guys with keyboards and yesterday Giants general manager Brian Sabean assured Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News that “there is nothing physically the matter” with Bumgarner:
It’s this simple: He was preoccupied this winter and it cost him. He had personal stuff to straighten out, getting married, and he was ill-prepared to come into spring training. I don’t know how much he threw to get ready. Some of it is our fault because we didn’t track him as well as maybe we should. We’ve got to do a better job eyeballing that.
That all sounds perfectly reasonable until you consider that Bumgarner’s decline in velocity actually dates back to last season, when he averaged just 89.2 miles per hour with his fastball during a 10-inning stint in San Francisco. So yes, perhaps Bumgarner didn’t do everything he should have done this offseason, but if anything that only compounded a problem that had already surfaced months earlier.
Whatever the case, after giving up 11 runs over seven innings in his first two starts Bumgarner turned in a solid outing at Triple-A last night with six innings of two-run ball. He still managed only three strikeouts, but Fresno announcer Doug Greenwald told Baggarly that “the scoreboard radar gun had Bumgarner’s fastball consistently in the low 90s, topping out at 93 mph.”
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.