Bumgarner's fire apparent in all areas

Giants left-hander 'one of those perfectionists' in baseball and in life

March 5th, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Madison Bumgarner is what sets the Giants apart from other teams. He's a big old country boy from North Carolina with a soft Southern drawl, a bit of a smile, and a whole lot of focus.

"All he wants to be is the best at everything he does," said manager Bruce Bochy.

And it doesn't matter where or when or what.

The Giants left-hander made his spring debut Friday afternoon against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Bumgarner worked two relatively quick innings in San Francisco's eventual 4-3 victory, a two-out home run by Eugenio Suarez in the first the only blemish.

Bumgarner, however, followed that up by getting Adam Duvall to fly out to right to end the first inning and then struck out the side in the second.

"Not by chance," said Bochy. "There's a competitiveness in him that sets the tone for everyone else. He's one of those perfectionists. Whether it's handling horses or cattle or throwing a baseball, he wants to do it the right way. He wants to win."

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Ask Bumgarner's in-laws. They are into team cattle roping, and back in his high school days, when he started dating Ali, who is now his wife, they introduced him to the event.

"I grew up on a farm, riding horses all the time, but I had never roped," Bumgarner explained. "I started dating my wife and her parents roped. It looked like something I wanted to do. I fell in love with it. That's what we do all winter."

And how proficient has Bumgarner become? He smiles. That says it all.

There's nobody in baseball who will ever question that competitiveness. It is apparent every time he takes the mound.

After getting a peek at life in the big leagues in September 2009, at the age of 20, Bumgarner arrived to stay on June 26, 2010. The Giants have won three World Series in the six Octobers since then. Bumgarner? He's started four times in those three World Series, and he's won all four games, one-third of the wins San Francisco needed to claim those championships.

Bumgarner's World Series ERA is 0.25 -- that's one run in 36 innings. Oh, and he also appeared in relief in a fifth World Series game, earning the save that time.

All a part of the job for Bumgarner.

This is a guy who is much more comfortable in his Wranglers and boots than on stage at a news conference being questioned about his latest success.

"You think about how mature he is and how focused he is," Bochy said. "I'm not just talking about games. I am talking about his bullpen sessions. I'm talking about fielding practice. He's always making adjustments. He's always looking to get better."

Bumgarner is already pretty good. Since that June 26, 2010, start against the Red Sox, his 85 victories are fourth among big league pitchers, behind Clayton Kershaw (94), Max Scherzer (92) and Zack Greinke (89), and one more than both David Price and Justin Verlander. Bumgarner has pitched 200-plus innings in each of his five full big league seasons.

Bumgarner has even added another 88 1/3 innings in those three Octobers in which the Giants have won World Series championships. He has finally gotten some attention from his peers and was an All-Star selection the past three years.

So far, however, there is no National League Cy Young Award to decorate the fireplace mantle at the rural 125-acre spread outside Hudson, N.C., where Bumgarner spends his offseasons, tending to a small herd of cattle and horses that he runs. He was fourth in the voting two years ago, his best finish -- so far.

"He doesn't talk about those things," said Bochy.

Bumgarner does, however, have those three championship rings. And that, as much as anything, says plenty about him.