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Madison Bumgarner is in the best shape of his life

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Add Giants starter Madison Bumgarner to the list of players entering the 2018 season in the best shape of their lives. On Friday, Bumgarner told reporters, including MLB.com’s Chris Haft, that he exercised with greater intensity and frequency this offseason. As a result, Bumgarner said, “I feel as good as I’ve ever felt, as strong as I’ve ever felt. I’m really excited to get started.”

Battery mate Buster Posey said, “He looks as trim and fit as I can remember. Knowing him as long as I have, it doesn’t surprise me. I watch him all year. He’s constantly trying to perfect his craft.”

Bumgarner, 28, missed time between mid-April and mid-July due to injuries sustained in a dirt bike accident. Overall, he made 17 starts, finishing with a 3.32 ERA and a 101/20 K/BB ratio in 111 innings. By most standards, that’s still a solid year, but it marked the highest ERA Bumgarner posted since 2012.

Bumgarner said he wasn’t sure what exactly his motivation was for the serious offseason workout routine, which Haft said included running, weightlifting, Pilates, and yoga. Bumgarner said, “I don’t know what the reason was. There was a little extra motivation. I don’t know if it was because of the year, because of the injury, because of the team that we have this year. Probably a combination of sorts. I asked myself that question this winter, actually, but I never did find an answer.”

The Giants finished 64-98 last season. To their credit, unlike a lot of teams, the Giants made moves to improve over the offseason, acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen and signing Austin Jackson. FanGraphs is projecting the Giants to go 84-78 in 2018, a 20-game improvement.

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.