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Bumgarner takes big step, returns to mound

Special to MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner threw off a mound Monday for the first time since suffering a broken pinkie on his pitching hand, moving the 2014 World Series MVP one step closer to returning to the big league club.

Bumgarner's bullpen session was limited strictly to fastballs.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner threw off a mound Monday for the first time since suffering a broken pinkie on his pitching hand, moving the 2014 World Series MVP one step closer to returning to the big league club.

Bumgarner's bullpen session was limited strictly to fastballs.

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"I felt good," Bumgarner said. "I've been throwing offspeed stuff on flat ground. Today we just did all fastballs because it was just 20 pitches."

It was a big step in Bumgarner's recovery. The four-time All-Star, who missed a large chunk of 2017 with shoulder and rib injuries, hasn't pitched in nearly two months. He was hit in the hand by a line drive in San Francisco's final exhibition game in Spring Training and underwent surgery the following day to have three pins inserted.

The pins were removed and Bumgarner was given clearance to resume throwing earlier this month.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the plan is to have Bumgarner throw two more bullpen sessions then he will face hitters next week when San Francisco begins an eight-game road trip in Houston. If all goes well and there are no setbacks, Bumgarner will then head to the Minors to begin a rehab assignment.

Bumgarner will throw 30 pitches and include his offspeed arsenal during his next two bullpens.

"He looked good," Bochy said. "He was letting it go. If you watched the bullpen today, you'd think he's making his next start. It's where he's at. The issue right now, he's got to build some stamina and strength because he hasn't been throwing that much."

Bumgarner was originally placed on the 10-day disabled list and was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 11. He's eligible to come off May 25 but Bochy indicated that's not likely to happen.

"I don't think so," the Giants skipper said. "It'll be a little bit after that. He's on schedule. Nothing's changed with his schedule. It's just a matter of when we bring him up."

Bumgarner was encouraged by getting back on the mound but wasn't making a big deal out of it.

"It wasn't like I was surprised I felt good because I've been feeling good the whole time," Bumgarner said. "It's hard to find the happy medium and try not to ramp it up too fast and then cause a setback in your arm getting ready and getting in shape. But it's hard also to hold it back. I feel like we've been definitely aggressive but not too aggressive."

Therein lies the rub for the Giants.

While they no doubt need Bumgarner back in the rotation, they need to be careful not to rush him back.

Bochy acknowledged they made that mistake with Jeff Samardzija after Samardzija began the season on the disabled list with a pectoral injury. Samardzija pitched five scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels in his first start April 20 but has yet to pitch six innings.

"We brought him up probably a start early with the thought that we had to cover in the bullpen when he pitched that game down in Anaheim," Bochy said. "He was limited to around 75 pitches then so we probably could do the same with Madison."

Breast cancer survivor honored

Helen Hughes Struck, the Giants' Honorary Bat Girl, was honored during a pregame ceremony Monday. Struck was diagnosed with an aggressive form of invasive breast cancer in late 2014 when she was 35 years old. Struck continued working full-time as a public defender during five months of chemotherapy followed by multiple surgeries, and she and her husband recently adopted a baby boy.

Major League Baseball's Honorary Bat Girl program was introduced league-wide in 2009 to raise additional awareness and support for the annual "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" initiative celebrated on Mother's Day. Proceeds from the sale of special pink gear, including caps and dugout hoodies, will benefit Susan G. Komen and Stand Up To Cancer, and the Giants are holding an auction of Mother's Day jerseys.

Injury updates

• Closer Mark Melancon (right elbow flexor strain) threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session and will throw once more, possibly to hitters, on Thursday. "Mark threw all his pitches, he wasn't hesitant on anything," Bochy said.

• Second baseman Joe Panik (sprained left thumb) played catch and is slated to begin dry swinging with a bat later this week.

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

San Francisco Giants, Madison Bumgarner