D-backs rave about Madison Bumgarner, likely opening day starter

Mar 4, 2020, 2:50 PM | Updated: 3:20 pm
Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch as he prepares for his spring training debut for the Arizona Dia...
Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch as he prepares for his spring training debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks on February 27, 2020, at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, AZ. (Photo by Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

For whatever his own reasons may be, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo still won’t say for sure that Madison Bumgarner is going to start for the team on opening day.

“I haven’t yet given him that title of being the opening day starter,” he told Bickley & Marotta on Arizona Sports on Wednesday. “But I would be an idiot if I didn’t give it strong consideration.

“Can you imagine that one? ‘Hey, MadBum, I’m going to start you on day three.’ He might throw me over the building.”

So then, it seems that Bumgarner taking the mound for the team’s first regular season game this year, which is on March 26 against the Braves at Chase Field, is a likely scenario.

It’s good, then, that Bumgarner’s progress with his new team seems to be going along just fine. He made his second start of the spring at Salt River Fields on Wednesday and already pitched well in his first start last week.

“He’s been all that’s advertised,” Lovullo said before that start. “We’re watching him prepare right now to go out and pitch in his game, and he’s been unbelievable with his work habits, with how he’s felt our concepts. He’s accepted them and we hope it’s going to just make him one click better. He’s already a really, really elite guy. … On top of that, he’s been a great teammate.”

A big distraction for the Bumgarner story this spring has been the revelation that he’s participated in rodeo events under the name Mason Saunders. When fellow starting pitcher Merrill Kelly joined Bickley & Marotta, however, Kelly discussed the idea that many players have side hobbies.

“You need that outlet,” Kelly said. “Anything you do every single day for an extended period of time, you’re going to want to get away from for a little while. Mine personally is golf. I love to golf. When I’m not at home or at the field, I’m probably on the golf course if you want to find me.”

Kelly also implied that he wasn’t terribly surprised at the news that Bumgarner was doing such things.

“I think if you kind of know his background a little bit, which I’m starting to understand it, I’m starting to get pieces of it just from talking to him here and there, that’s where he comes from,” Kelly said. “That’s where it’s normal from where he grew up and it’s kind of something that he grew up with and has always enjoyed doing. So yeah, it’s just kind of something that he’s passionate about.”

On the baseball diamond, the Diamondbacks need an ace to replace the one they traded last summer in Zack Greinke. Bumgarner could potentially be that guy.

“He brings Greinke back on the team, to me,” Mike Leake told Bickley & Marotta. “He’s a number one that I think the team’s needed. We had the young talent, the No. 1 young talent in [Zac] Gallen and the younger guys that are developing. Myself, I’m still working towards getting that. We have the pieces in place, but Madison has basically solidified that.”

We’ll all find out how that plan takes shape when — if — Bumgarner starts his season on opening day.

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