Jeff Francis downplays level of free agent interest

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Last week Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reported that at least five teams were pursuing Jeff Francis, but the Canadian left-hander talked to the Vancouver Province and downplayed the amount of interest he’s received as a free agent.

It’s exciting for people to read because they think there’s lots of things happening, but it’s not as fast-paced as it’s all made out to be. Teams are interested, but that’s about it at this point.

Francis finished a four-year, $13.25 million contract and the Rockies declined their $7.5 million option on him for 2011 after he went 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 104 innings coming back from shoulder surgery.

He’ll likely have to accept an incentive-laden one-year deal at this point, as Francis hasn’t been healthy and effective since winning 17 regular season games and two more in the playoffs during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007.

Madison Bumgarner apparently hunts bears, too

Madison Bumgarner
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We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).

Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.

On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”

As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.