MadBum sharper but still shaky after extra rest

April 15th, 2023

MIAMI -- When last pitched at loanDepot park, he was on the mound for only one inning. Then, he was ejected after an interaction with first-base umpire Dan Bellino during the sticky stuff check.

To that point -- and even after that game (which capped a D-backs sweep of the Marlins) -- Bumgarner was cruising. He took the bump against Miami last year on May 4 with five games under his belt and a 1.17 ERA.

This year, Bumgarner entered the series opener on Friday with a 7.27 ERA and on a few extra days of rest. Those weren’t just handed to him, though. He has been dealing with an undisclosed issue that “required” those days off.

“There was a lot going on in between the last start and this one,” Bumgarner said after Arizona’s 5-1 loss. “It wasn't quite as smooth as it may have looked, just getting a couple extra days. There was a lot of stuff going on. We're not going to tell you all the stuff that's going on. But yeah, so that wasn't just an ordinary, ‘Here's a couple extra days.’”

Bumgarner and manager Torey Lovullo hoped that, against the Marlins, things would finally fall into place on the bump for the former ace.

“I think good pitchers get a feel and they start to get an idea of where they are, how they're going to land their pitches,” Lovullo said pregame. “Bum's kind of mixing his deck up a little bit. He's trying not to be one-dimensional. And all the strengths that he used to have, they're still there, but he's trying to be a little bit more versatile with throwing pitches in different areas. So when it happens, it clicks, I think he's going to be in a good spot.”

It didn’t click, though. And despite Bumgarner throwing five innings for the first time this season, he also allowed five runs on nine hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Four of Bumgarner’s five innings were scoreless, and he located his pitches successfully for the first three; that lone walk was proof that he’s starting to get his command back. (He entered Friday with 10 walks over 8 2/3 innings.)

"Obviously, MadBum is a guy who has been around a long time," Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. "He knows how to get hitters out. He was giving us trouble with the changeup, and kind of the back-door cutter. Keeping us off-balance early on. Credit to our hitters. They stuck with their approach.”

But instead of falling into place, things fell apart. After allowing a pair of singles to lead off the fourth inning, Bumgarner yielded a two-out RBI single to catcher Jacob Stallings -- the first of four RBI knocks that gave the Marlins a 5-0 lead. Bumgarner finally induced a flyout for out No. 3 and walked off the mound to the visitor’s dugout, his head hung low after the 24-pitch inning.

It didn’t help that Bumgarner wasn’t able to slow down the game the way he wanted thanks to the pitch timer.

“You’re limited in ways to [slow down the game] now,” Bumgarner said. “The momentum is definitely a real thing. … I think we're all still learning with the game within the game. You know, since everything's changed a little bit. But yeah, I would have liked to have been able to slow everything down and bore everyone into making a few outs there. But that's not the case.”

“I feel like just slowing the game down at the right times,” Lovullo said. “Whether Bum’s able to do it on his own or creating that by a mound visit, I feel like we could have done that [sooner].”

So where do things go for Bumgarner now? The D-backs aren’t likely to remove him from the starting rotation anytime soon. They’re going to keep giving him a chance to win ballgames, and a chance to return to previous form. As for the southpaw, he’s working through whatever issue he’s dealing with and keeping his focus on moving forward.

“Just keep trying to make pitches and deal with the stuff we're dealing with,” Bumgarner said. “I think we've got a lot of stuff moving in the right direction. And I'm being very vague, I know -- sorry. But I think it's moving in the right direction anyway.”