D-backs LHP Madison Bumgarner trying out calling own pitches

Mar 5, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Mar 6, 2023, 9:16 am
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)...
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)
(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

GOODYEAR — Madison Bumgarner entered a new world taking the hill for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday for the first time this spring training.

Among rule changes such as the pitch clock and pickoffs limits, Bumgarner utilized the PitchCom to call his own shots against the Cleveland Guardians in Goodyear.

“I liked it,” Bumgarner said after his outing. “I’m gonna work on where I want to put it. I put on my belt, might try the glove next time ,might be a little easier. I wish we could have a microphone, or we could just talk to each other, that would be perfect, I think, but we are going in the right direction.”

Bumgarner said he and catcher Gabriel Moreno split calling the pitches. Manager Torey Lovullo said before the game that Bumgarner was curious about the procedure — which involves buttons the pitcher or catcher can press which transmits a signal to the other.

The lefty said there were a few instances where he and Moreno called pitches at the same time.

“It was by feel,” Bumgarner said. “If he sees me go for it, then he waited. If I didn’t then he called it.”

Pitchers around the league are experimenting with the PitchCom since last year, which is designed to speed up the game and avoid sign stealing. Some arms like Bumgarner or Zack Greinke had it placed on their belts, while others put it on their gloves or wrists (Greinke had a great moment shaking off his own pitches during his last outing).

The D-backs continue to tinker with the technology, as Lovullo said Arizona’s catchers have had mounted earpieces since midseason in 2022.

“I’ve had a catcher on a mound visit tell me, ‘We need to turn down our pitcher’s volume on the receiver because I can hear what the pitches are from sitting there,'” Lovullo said. “Those little nuances that we’ve got to work out, and we’ve got to be careful. We don’t want to give them pitches at any time.”

Bumgarner accomplished his goal of pitching three innings on Sunday, doing so having allowed two earned runs on two hits with two hit batsmen.

Lovullo said he was impressed by Bumgarner’s pitch mix and was not concerned by some of the veteran’s misses considering it was his debut.

“I thought he was throwing a lot of quality curveballs mixed with some changeups,” Lovullo said. “He’s gonna try to not be as predictable as possible.”

The veteran is entering his fourth season in the Valley after signing a five-year deal ahead of the 2020 season. He finished 2022 on a low note with a 6.55 ERA over his final 11 starts. His strikeout rate dropped to a career-low 16% (excluding 2020), while his exit velocity was 90.3 mph in the bottom 8% of the league.

His curveball and changeup, though, were his best two weapons last year in terms of hard hit and whiff percentage.

Bumgarner admitted on Sunday that his D-backs tenure has not gone to plan through three seasons, but he feels as strong physically as he’s been in years and is focused on making the most of 2023.

Calling his own pitches could spell a new opportunity for Bumgarner to evolve.

The D-backs won Sunday’s game 6-4 over Cleveland.


– Corbin Carroll had another strong performance with a double, three walks and a pair of runs scored. His speed continued to give opponents fits, as he reached third on the double after a poor throw and scored on a shallow sacrifice fly. Lovullo said Carroll’s walks were most impressive, describing the youngster as stubborn for his pitch.

– Center fielder Alek Thomas had a day backing up Bumgarner. Cleveland’s first batter Steven Kwan hit a low liner to center that Thomas tracked and caught on a slide. In the third inning, Thomas ran down a deep fly ball to the warning track, covering the amount of distance between Goodyear and Scottsdale.

– Thomas also produced a two-run triple to left field off Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie. He used a swim move on a dive to avoid a tag after the ball beat him.

– Reliever Justin Martinez started his outing with a 1-0 count for taking too long to throw is last warmup pitch. He continued to throw heat, reaching 101 mph on the gun in a scoreless inning.

– Outfielder Kyle Lewis made his D-backs debut as the designated hitter. He went 0-for-3 but hit a ball to the warning track in left-center field. Lovullo said before the game that Lewis will play defense in games further down the road in spring training.

– Second baseman Diego Castillo made a nice impression defensively. In the second inning with two runners on, a sharp grounder kicked off the glove of diving first baseman Seth Beer, and Castillo lassoed it. He quickly flipped his hips and got the out at second on a force. The play paid dividends immediately, as the next batter flew out to right for the final out and stranded a runner on third.

– Lovullo said shortstop Nick Ahmed will start on Monday against the Kansas City Royals. Ahmed has yet to make his spring debut, missing time due to left forearm tightness and inflammation.

– Drey Jameson is probable to start on the bump for Arizona on Monday, while Zac Gallen is set to make his 2023 debut Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics.

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