SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Madison Bumgarner didn’t notice the progressive change in his mechanics last year. That subtle back turn of his just kept getting more and more pronounced.
“Before I knew it, I was spinning around like Nomo,” the Giants’ laconic left-hander said.
Bumgarner straightened himself out just in time last October. Pulled from the playoff rotation in the NLCS, he made adjustments in two side sessions and found his way to tame the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the World Series.
He was just as effective in his first outing of the spring, tossing two scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox on Monday at Scottsdale Stadium.
But it’s not like Bumgarner coasted for the past 3 ½ months.
“I knew I wasn’t done working to be where I needed to be,” he said. “I had a lot to do.”
His delivery looked much tighter against the White Sox as he held them to two hits and a walk while striking out one. Although he had a few near-wild pitches, he chalked those up to the usual jitters that come with facing hitters for the first time in awhile. He believes that by not throwing across his body so much, he’ll be able to spot the fastball away better while striving for more consistency with his curveball and changeup.
He hopes his changes can benefit in one other way, too.
“I want to control the running game more,” Bumgarner said. “Last year, my time to the plate was so slow. It didn’t matter if I slide-stepped or not. I didn’t give Buster a shot. So I’ll work on that.”
Bumgarner wasn’t understating the problem. No left-handed pitcher in the majors had more bases stolen on him last year. Opponents were successful in 27 of 37 attempts.
Just a year earlier, in 2011, opponents stole just 12 bases against Bumgarner – and were caught 11 times.
Posey said he hasn’t caught Bumgarner enough this spring to know whether the lefty is quicker to the plate. But cutting out that back turn should help him in another respect.
“I’ve caught him before when he’s had a really good move to first base,” Posey said. “Maybe with less of a turn, he’ll get that old move back. Because he’s pretty deceptive to runners when he’s right.”
Baserunners are like the ocean. You never want to turn your back on them.