Left-hander Madison Bumgarner cruised through almost four innings of work in a backfield game last week, sporting a biting cutter and a sharp curveball.
It was the most encouraging sign yet that the Diamondbacks’ veteran left-hander might still have enough weapons at his disposal to bounce back from his ugly second half of last season.
Facing a lineup of mostly upper-level Chicago Cubs minor leaguers on Friday afternoon, Bumgarner gave up no runs on three hits. He did not walk a batter. He struck out six.
Bumgarner seemed most excited about the action he was getting on his cutter. Earlier in the week, he adjusted the way he gripped the pitch, trying it out in a bullpen session. Friday was his first opportunity to use it against hitters. They were not all sharp, but many of the ones that were elicited off-balance swings and misses.
“The cutters I threw today, I probably didn’t throw any like that last year,” Bumgarner said. “Not to say they’re going to be like that next time out. I don’t know. We’re working on it. We’re trying to make sure I can get it that way. It used to be that way.
“It looked to me like there was no hump. That’s one thing that the (pitch-tracking) machines don’t read. They don’t read if there’s a hump in it or not. It looked to me like it was coming straight out. It looked to my eyes — maybe because there was no hump, I don’t know — but it looked like it had a little more depth, too.”
Said catcher Carson Kelly, who caught Bumgarner’s outing: “It was definitely sharper. I think maybe in the past sometimes he would get on the side of it, get around it, and it wouldn’t have that sharp bite. I think he’s been working pretty hard to figure that out, make that adjustment.”
Bumgarner, who was also encouraged by the shape of his curveball, has been trying to mix his pitches better rather than rely so heavily on his cutter. It is something the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff has been encouraging him to do.
“There’s times when your stuff is right, it don’t matter,” Bumgarner said. “You can tell them what’s coming and you’re going to be successful a lot of the time. (Last year) I was maybe being predictable and the stuff just wasn’t moving very good.”
Bumgarner also said that on days when one pitch is working particularly well, he still expects to use it often.
“Whatever is working that day is the main deal,” Bumgarner said. “But, ideally, not leaning on one pitch drastically more than others just to keep guys from feeling comfortable with what they might be getting.”
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Third baseman Josh Rojas has not played in a Cactus League game since Wednesday, the result of “general fatigue” that he would rather address now rather than risk having it linger into the start of the season.
“It’s tightness in hamstrings, tightness in glutes,” Rojas said. “Just some general stuff that I want to get to 100 percent before I get back out there.”
A year ago, Rojas felt discomfort in his oblique during spring training but tried to play through it. He wound up making the injury worse and was forced to open the year on the injured list.
“Where I am baseball-wise, I feel really good,” he said. “My timing feels good. My swing feels good. I don’t feel like I’m in a spot where I have to force anything. Just not trying to push anything right now and get hurt.”
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Shortstop prospect Cristofer Torin has twice appeared in big league spring training games with the Diamondbacks, an unusual occurrence for a player who is only 17 years old.
Moreover, Torin has impressed, looking smooth and natural in the field and even lining a single to right field in his first at-bat.
“We were commenting on it, a 17-year-old who carries himself the way he does, that barreled the ball and got a base hit to right field, it’s pretty amazing,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Let’s go back to where everybody was when they were 17 years old, let alone playing in a major league game and holding your own. Like, I didn’t have hair under my armpits at 17 years old. So there is absolutely no way I could have done what he did, nor expect to carry myself the way he did.”
- Christian Walker was hit by a 93 mph fastball just above his left hip in the third inning. Walker ran the bases but was removed in the bottom half of the inning, which Lovullo called a precautionary move. Lovullo added that Walker would have stayed in the game if it were the regular season, but said the first baseman is day-to-day.
- Lovullo said he plans to play outfielder Kyle Lewis in the field for the first time this spring either Friday or Saturday. Lewis got a late start to camp as he built up strength in his legs and has only played DH thus far.
Diamondbacks 11, Rangers 8
At Surprise Stadium
At the plate: The Diamondbacks scored 10 or more runs for the third consecutive day. They displayed a nice opposite field approach, with every starter except C Jose Herrera reaching base. OF/1B Pavin Smith went 2-for-4, recording his first hits since missing a few days last week with back spasms. He’s now hitting .381 through 21 at-bats. DH/C P.J. Higgins crushed his second homer of the spring over the visitors’ bullpen in left field. 2B/3B Buddy Kennedy continued his fielding troubles by misplaying a foul pop-up in the first inning, but also hit a triple to center, adding to an impressive spring at the plate. “I think everything’s timing up well for our guys,” Lovullo said. “We’re having some really good, quality at-bats.”
On the mound: RHP Zac Gallen allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks across 4 IP in his second spring start. “Didn’t feel that great,” Gallen said. “Felt better than I did the previous outing.” Gallen added that his slider, change-up and fastball all felt good but that his curveball was “not really existent.” His focus is on getting the timing with his mechanics in place by Opening Day, which is 17 days away. Gallen was removed with two outs in the fourth but returned to retire one batter in the fifth so as to get his body used to getting up to pitch in five innings, which he said is more important than the pitch count. LHP Joe Mantiply was hit hard out of the bullpen, giving up three runs on four hits, including a home run, in one inning of work. Mantiply had previously had three scoreless outings.
Extra bases: In the first inning, the Diamondbacks displayed some of the baserunning aptitude that has made them one of the best teams in baseball in that area. OF Jake McCarthy went first-to-third on a single to left from Smith, enabling Smith to move into scoring position behind him. Both runners came around to score. Smith did so on a shallow sacrifice fly, just beating the throw home with a hard sprint from third. “We take an extra base first-to-third and home-to-second, it set a really good tone,” Lovullo said. “We talk about setting tones and doing things right, it showed up in the first inning.”
Theo Mackie contributed to this report.