D-backs’ Madison Bumgarner taking ‘slow drip’ approach, expected to start Sunday

Mar 3, 2023, 4:47 PM
Madison Bumgarner #40 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts at the end of the third inning against the...
Madison Bumgarner #40 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts at the end of the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on July 29, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE — Arizona Diamondbacks LHP Madison Bumgarner is expected to make his 2023 spring training debut on Sunday against the Cleveland Guardians, manager Torey Lovullo told reporters on Friday.

Bumgarner is coming off a shaky year as the D-backs’ highest paid player on the roster (entering the fourth year of his five-year, $80 million contract).

The lefty posted a 7-15 record in 2022, a 4.88 ERA (the worst of his career in seasons he pitched at least 50 innings) and career-worst 1.44 WHIP.

Despite the numbers not backing the 33-year-old pitcher, Lovullo has been happy with the progress the lefty has made this spring.

“He’s throwing ok, it’s always a work in progress for him through spring training,” Lovullo said. “I spent a lot of time watching his bullpens. He is just trying to manipulate the baseball in his hand.”

Lovullo added that the veteran pitcher is going through a checklist of items the team wants to see before taking the mound.

That includes the defense the team will be playing due to the new shift rules for this season. Lovullo said Arizona will not necessarily have a set defense, but one that reacts to where routine (84 MPH) groundballs are.

It’ll take a full team effort from Bumgarner and Co.

“It’s hard, we do not want to give these guys our standards in just one day,” Lovullo said.

“The ones that have been here know it and will do it organically, but the ones that haven’t been here will take some time. It’s a slow drip adding a lot of concepts for these guys. We checked three or four more boxes today.”

Bumgarner started his career as a groundball pitcher with the San Francisco Giants. In his 11 years with the Giants, Bumgarner posted a groundball percentage of less than 39% just once.

In three years with Arizona, however, he has posted three of the four worst seasons in groundball percentage of his career (33.3%, 33.3% and 36.6%).

The manager expects the three-time World Series champion to find his groove again for the new season.

“He has an unbelievable ability to take a baseball, change grips, work on stuff and get pitches in the zone,” Lovullo added.

“Bum is doing a really nice job in terms of pitch shaping and just working real hard. He looks good, he looks good.”

Lovullo said that an important part of Bumgarner’s ramp up includes understanding the concepts and feeling comfortable with the new rules that includes the mound visits and pitch clock.

Ace in the hole

D-backs ace Zac Gallen is expected to make his spring debut “right behind (Bumgarner) at some point,” Lovullo said.

Gallen had a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game on Thursday that the skipper was thrilled about.

“Gallen did a really good job yesterday. … That was something we were really anxious to see,” Lovullo said. “We will talk about what has to happen next.”

Barring injury, Gallen figures to be the Opening Day starter for Arizona after going 12-4 over 31 starts and collecting a franchise record 44.1 consecutive scoreless innings last season.

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