Bumgarner 'on the right path,' leans on offspeed
Pfaadt, making case for 5th rotation spot, strikes out seven
MESA, Ariz. -- Madison Bumgarner finally got to pitch Thursday afternoon and the D-backs left-hander turned in one of his better outings of the spring in a 3-1 win over the Cubs, tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
Bumgarner was originally scheduled to start the first game of Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader at Salt River Fields. Rain, though, forced the game to be postponed and Arizona pushed the veteran back to the scheduled night game.
But with rain in the forecast for the evening, the D-backs pivoted a little more than an hour before game time and sent Bumgarner home, deciding he would pitch Thursday instead. That proved to be a wise decision as Wednesday night’s game was postponed in the fourth inning.
Bumgarner allowed a hit in the first inning and then he loaded the bases with one out in the second before manager Torey Lovullo took him out in order to preserve his pitch count. Bumgarner was re-inserted to start the third and he retired the side in order in the third and fourth innings.
“It got better as it went,” Bumgarner said of his outing. “And this one was better than the last one overall, so as long as we keep that trend going I’ll be happy. Got two more [starts] I think before the season, so I feel like it's on the right path for sure.”
Bumgarner seemed to have a good feel for his secondary pitches, including his changeup and curveball.
What Bumgarner was really pleased with was getting to call his own game using a PitchCom receiver attached to his glove.
“That's more comfortable and it can keep the pace going,” Bumgarner said. “You end up getting in a pretty nice rhythm, so I like it.”
Bumgarner has said that the pitch timer is a rule change that he likes and with each outing he’s getting more used to it. One of the things he’s discovered is that if he could wean himself off the habit of rubbing up new baseballs, he could continue with a quicker pace.
“If I could just get the new ball and throw it, that would be ideal with the timer,” Bumgarner said.
Pfaadt making his case
Brandon Pfaadt put together an outstanding outing in back of Bumgarner as he tries to win the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
The right-hander allowed three hits and one run over four innings while not walking a batter and striking out seven. He was so efficient with his pitches that he needed to throw an extra 15 pitches in the bullpen after the game just to reach his pitch count.
Pfaadt is competing with Tommy Henry, Drey Jameson and Ryne Nelson for the final spot in the rotation behind Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Bumgarner and Zach Davies.
“Specifically, what he's shown is the ability to command breaking balls, his fastball, he can throw any of these pitches in any count,” Lovullo said. “He had great carry today on his fastball. It's not just 94, 95 mph, it has good finish to it.”
Pfaadt retired the first two batters he faced in his first inning of work, which was the sixth inning, before missing his spot with a changeup up and allowing a home run to Cody Bellinger.
As has been his modus operandi in the Minor Leagues, though, Pfaadt did not let the homer impact how he attacked the strike zone.
“I'm not a guy that lets things in the past affect what happens with the next batter,” Pfaadt said. “I take pride in that and I think that separates different pitchers from others.”
With two weeks until the regular season starts, Pfaadt, who is the only member of the four fifth-spot competitors to not be on the 40-man roster, is squarely in the mix.
“They're all pushing one another,” Lovullo said. “I don't want anybody to win by default. I want everybody to be excellent and make it as hard on us as possible.”