SCOTTSDALE -- Mike Hazen’s first rodeo experience with the D-backs was a doozy.
On Sunday, a report in The Athletic outed starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner as “Mason Saunders,” the alias the pitcher uses to compete in his secret rodeo career. Bumgarner, who signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the D-backs this offseason, has been calf roping since he was a teenager and competes professionally, according to the report.
A day later, Hazen addressed the situation and said he does not tell his players what they can and can’t do. It’s also his policy not to discuss specific contract language about any of his players.
“Madison is a grown man, and we know that he is committed to helping us achieve our goals as a team,” the general manager said. “Those have been the conversations that we’ve had from the time we first talked to him until very recently.”
Hazen, who has never been to a rodeo, said the club knew Bumgarner was “a strong horseman” and lived on a ranch, but he was unaware his pitcher had previously competed in rodeo events. Hazen added that the rodeo revelation would not have impacted the team’s pursuit of the veteran starter during free agency.
It’s also Hazen’s understanding that Bumgarner has not competed in a rodeo since signing with Arizona.
“I’m sure we will have conversations [with Bumgarner] at various points in time,” Hazen said. “All sorts of subjects come up. The majority of our conversations have centered around getting ready to pitch.”
Manager Torey Lovullo characterized the situation with Bumgarner as “a non-issue.”
“Everyone wants to know if I talked to Madison or had to call him in and that’s not the case,” Lovullo said. “We have daily conversations with Madison. Still getting to know him. I enjoy those conversations. What those are and what direction those go in are private to me. It would be the same if it is a topic like it is or a topic we normally go over. He’s here to compete. He’s here to help us grow and learn and win a championship. He’s a great teammate and we are getting to know him.”
A three-time World Series champion with the Giants, Bumgarner has compiled 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings in seven of the past nine seasons. Overall, he boasts a 119-92 record with a 3.13 ERA. His 3.90 ERA in '19 ranked as the highest of his 11-year career.
Bumgarner is expected to make his Cactus League debut with the D-backs against the Reds on Thursday at Salt River Fields. He has not been been named the D-backs’ Opening Day starter, but that’s not unusual because the team usually waits until the final days of Spring Training to make the announcement.
“When we have spoken to him, it’s about helping him achieve our goals and why we brought him here,” Hazen said. “We are just looking forward to seeing him take the mound this week.”
Asked to comment on the name “Mason Saunders,” Hazen was noncommittal.
“I don’t have an opinion on peoples’ aliases,” he said. “Aliases are very common in baseball, mostly associated with hotel rooms. I’ve never needed one, and hope not to.”
Former Giants teammates Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford said they didn't know about his alter ego.
“It’s pretty impressive how he hid this. And he won, right? I mean, jeez. That’s even more impressive,” said Bruce Bochy, Bumgarner’s former manager in San Francisco. ”I’ve got to think that’s the end of him being on the rodeo circuit. I can’t wait to talk to him about it. I’ve got some stories about him, some things that he’s done, but this one tops all of them.”
• Zac Gallen, who is vying for a spot in the starting rotation, retired all six batters he faced in two innings in his start against the Giants. He struck out one.
Right-handed pitcher Jon Duplantier will make his Cactus League debut against the Dodgers on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. MT at Salt River Fields. Joel Payamps, Emilio Vargas, Héctor Rondón, Stefan Crichton and Matt Grace are also scheduled to pitch.