SACRAMENTO, Calif. — San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner was sharp in his first rehabilitation start since breaking the pinkie on his pitching hand in March, striking out eight while throwing 47 pitches over 3 2/3 hitless innings for Triple-A Sacramento.
It was such an encouraging start that Bumgarner didn’t rule out an immediate return to the Giants.
“I obviously didn’t know before today, but judging off the way I felt out there, I think so, for sure,” Bumgarner said. “I wouldn’t say I’d be back and be in midseason form, but I feel definitely good enough to get some outs.”
Bumgarner threw 31 strikes and walked one Saturday night while facing 12 hitters against the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The appearance came almost two months to the day of having surgery to insert three pins into his pinkie after injuring the hand in the final game of spring training.
“I feel pretty good about how everything was working,” Bumgarner said. “My command was good. My breaking balls were doing pretty good also, so that’s what I was looking for, everything headed in the right direction.”
Bumgarner’s fastball was clocked between 91 and 93 mph, and he effectively mixed pitches in his most extensive work since getting hurt.
The 2014 World Series MVP also drew a rousing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Raley Field when he singled to right field leading off the bottom of the third inning on the first pitch from Albuquerque’s Antonio Senzatela.
“First pitch I’ve seen in a while,” Bumgarner said. “A little tardy there. I’ll take it for sure.”
Because Sacramento leaves for a road trip next week, Bumgarner is likely to next pitch for Single-A San Jose on Thursday or Friday if he isn’t called up to the big league ballclub.
“Obviously we’ll see how I feel tomorrow and bounce back from it,” Bumgarner said. “We’re not rushing it extremely, but we’re definitely not taking our time with it, either. We’re ramping it up pretty quick.”
Bumgarner struck out the side in the first inning, needed only six pitches to get through the second, then got Senzatela to strike out looking in the third on a 61 mph off-speed pitch.
“The breaking stuff was moving right, the command of it was good,” Bumgarner said. “The fastball command was good. Pretty much everything I was looking for. It’s not perfect, but it was definitely something to feel good about for the first time out there.”
The outing was an encouraging sign for the 28-year-old Bumgarner, who hasn’t pitched a full season in the majors since 2016. He was limited to 17 starts in 2017 following a dirt bike accident during an off day in Colorado in April 2017 that left him with shoulder and rib injuries.
Bumgarner finished 4-9 last year with a 3.32 ERA that was the second-highest of his career but bounced back with a strong spring training that included 30 strikeouts over 21 innings before getting hurt.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said his ace was in peak form in the spring and tabbed the big lefty to be the team’s Opening Day starter until he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield on March 23.
Following Bumgarner’s surgery the following day, Bochy pointed to a June return that the left-hander remains on pace to achieve. The Giants skipper previously indicated last week that he would like to see his ace stretched out to 75 pitches before the team activates him off the disabled list.
Bumgarner threw off a mound three times early in his rehab and faced hitters for the first time this past Tuesday in Houston.
The Giants are trying to be as patient and cautious as possible with Bumgarner’s rehab despite being in obvious need of pitching help.
Johnny Cueto, the team’s No. 2 starter, has been on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation since late April and recently met with specialist Dr. James Andrews. Andrews recommended six to eight weeks of rest rather than surgery.
Additionally, No. 3 starter Jeff Samardzija began the season on the DL because of a pectoral injury. Samardzija won his first start April 20, but is 0-3 since.