Madison Bumgarner

Giants have to fix Madison Bumgarner before Game 5

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The Giants entered the postseason with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the rotation and no certainties after that. Following Bumgarner’s latest shaky outing against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS, they have to be wondering whether they can afford to pencil the lefty in for his expected Game 5 start.

Bumgarner was pounded for six runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Cardinals in Sunday’s defeat. He also gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Game 2 loss to the Reds in the NLDS. Dating back to the regular season, he’s allowed four runs in seven of his last nine starts. He’s turned in just one quality start during that span.

As of Aug. 20, Bumgarner was 14-7 with a 2.83 ERA for the season. Since that date, he’s struggled with his location and demonstrated less fastball velocity. He has a 37/19 K/BB ratio in 44 2/3 innings in his last nine starts. Before that, he had a 160/32 K/BB ratio in 171 2/3 innings.

Unless they can go the next three games without using Tim Lincecum, the Giants aren’t going to be in a position in which they can afford to replace Bumgarner. That seems like a long shot, since it’d likely involve Barry Zito going deep into Game 4. Most likely, they’ll take their chances again with Bumgarner in Game 5, but keep him on a very short leash in the process. They’ll almost certainly need more from him then if they’re going to reach the World Series for the second time in three years.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.