SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Madison Bumgarner learned a tough lesson and he’s ready for a do-over. San Francisco’s ace is as motivated as ever after the embarrassment of a dirt bike accident that cost him nearly three months and contributed to his club falling out of contention in a hurry.
Same goes for all of the Giants, fueled by an uncharacteristic 98-loss, last-place season.
The 2014 World Series MVP missed nearly three months after the dirt bike accident on April 20 during an off day in Colorado.
“Because of what happened to me last year, how we did last year, the whole combination of things and the group of guys that we’ve got here this year and the new staff ... the players that they brought in, I’m really excited,” Bumgarner said. “I feel like we’ve got a good chance to compete and win some games this year.”
After six straight seasons with double-digit wins, more than 200 innings and 30-plus starts — the previous three years with 18, 18 and 15 victories — Bumgarner went 4-9 with a 3.32 ERA in 17 starts last season and threw just 111 innings to match his low total from 2010 when he came up in June.
“You talk to the players and you can see a different attitude coming into this spring with what’s happened this offseason,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And also the fact that it’s a new slate and we’re going to be healthy, so there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic.”
San Francisco certainly figures Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto — who made only 25 starts last season — will return with strong seasons leading the rotation after being limited by injuries in 2017.
Even newcomers third baseman Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen understand the pain of losing so many games and the importance of pushing past that to contend again after a 64-98 season.
“I think they’re going to be a huge key to our success this year,” catcher Buster Posey said.
“You can only go up, right?” Longoria said.
Here are things to look for as the Giants try to bounce back in a tough NL West:
HEALTHY BELT: First baseman Brandon Belt has endured a series of concussions over the past two seasons — and he didn’t play after Aug. 4 last year.
“It’s obvious we’re hoping that we don’t deal with this again,” Bochy said. “Because of the number of concussions, sure there’s some concern. With that said, when you see Belt, he’s just got a hop to his step, he looks so good, he’s in a great frame of mind. He’s looking forward to really getting back on the field. He missed two months. That’s a long time.”
PENCE’S SHIFT: When the Giants acquired McCutchen from Pittsburgh, one of the first calls Bochy made was to Hunter Pence. The manager asked his right fielder to move to left.
Pence agreed to do whatever was needed.
“He’s always been one of the best teammates probably that this game’s ever seen,” Bumgarner said. “He wants to do whatever he can do to help us win. That’s the kind of guys you’ve got to have to have a winning team.”
MELANCON’S CHANCE: Closer Mark Melancon will try to pitch a full season in the ninth inning after his disappointing first year in the Bay Area was cut short when he needed right forearm surgery in September.
He made 32 appearances over 30 innings with 11 saves.
BEST CASE: Longoria and McCutchen are still stars, Bumgarner and Cueto — who decided in November to stay put when he could have opted out of his contract — are an elite 1-2 punch and the Giants return to the playoffs.
“I don’t think you can fill it in any more than putting a guy like Andrew McCutchen out there,” Longoria said. “He’s made a huge impact on the players both young and old that he’s played with and he’s got nothing but a great reputation. So all of those things are very important and make everybody confident that he’s going to be a great fit here.”
WORST CASE: An older team struggles to stay healthy again and it might be time to seriously consider a major rebuild. Posey is confident, and he can’t wait to play with Longoria and McCutchen.
“There’s a lot of teams that have backed up, punted and have gone the rebuilding route,” Bochy said. “I think you look at our core players it just makes sense to do what we’re doing because we still feel like there’s a nice window there for us to play winning baseball.”