SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)Arizona manager Torey Lovullo had plenty of praise for newly acquired left-hander Madison Bumgarner, calling the four-time All-Star exactly what his team needs at the top of the rotation.
Then came the follow-up question: Does that mean Bumgarner would start on opening day?
”I kind of walked myself into that one,” Lovullo acknowledged with a grin.
Lovullo wasn’t ready to name an opening day starter six weeks before the first game, but said he’d be ”an idiot” not to consider Bumgarner for the task.
The big lefty hasn’t always pitched like an ace the past three seasons, but the Diamondbacks are confident he has plenty of stellar performances ahead as they chase the loaded Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
”He sets a tone for everyone behind him,” Lovullo said Wednesday. ”It’s very hard to find a true No. 1 and we’ve had that in the past here. When you get someone like Madison Bumgarner everybody follows behind him, sits in very comfortably behind him and they can fill their roles.”
The 30-year-old Bumgarner signed an $85 million, five-year deal in December and comes to Arizona after a stellar decade with the San Francisco Giants. He was a three-time World Series winner, 2014 World Series Most Valuable Player and can even pack a little punch at the plate. He hit two homers on opening day against the Diamondbacks in 2017.
On Wednesday, he was a minor celebrity in his own clubhouse. Reliever Archie Bradley said Bumgarner was the first person he wanted to see when pitchers and catchers had their first workout Wednesday.
The left-hander hasn’t been an All-Star since 2016 but his reputation as one of the game’s elite pitchers hasn’t dimmed in his new teammates’ eyes.
”As a fan and now as a teammate, he kind of sets the tone,” Bradley said. ”He has a presence about him. I think he’s got plenty left in tank. I was excited to meet him and have him as a teammate.”
Lovullo said Bumgarner’s presence in the clubhouse would be invaluable. It could also help fill a void that was left in the middle of last summer when ace Zack Greinke was traded to the Houston Astros.
”I want to be the best that I can be,” Bumgarner said. ”And I want to help anybody else be as good as they can be, too. I can learn stuff from guys and they can learn stuff from me.”
Bumgarner, who had a 9-9 record with a 3.90 ERA last season, joins an Arizona rotation that’s optimistic it can be one of the best in the National League. He joins a group that includes fellow left-hander Robbie Ray and right-handers Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake and Zac Gallen.
The D-backs won 85 games last year and a flurry of offseason moves have the franchise optimistic it can compete in the NL West with the Dodgers, who won 106 games last season and recently added star outfielder Mookie Betts. Arizona also added outfielders Kole Calhoun and Starling Marte, catcher Stephen Vogt and relievers Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon.
But it’s Bumgarner who brings the most impressive resume. And he made his goal clear.
”What do I expect from myself? To win the World Series again,” Bumgarner said. ”That’s pretty much the only reason why anyone plays the game.”
Bradley is the lone D-backs player who is set to have a salary arbitration hearing, which is on Feb. 18. He asked for $4.1 million while the team offered $3,625,000. The 27-year-old has the inside track at being the team’s closer this summer after handling the job for the last half of 2019.
Bradley said he’s not concerned about the hearing. He had a career-high 18 saves last season.
”That’s why we’re going to court,” Bradley said. ”We’re going to let someone else decide it, it’s not a worry to me, I don’t hold any grudges, I’m not upset, I just want to get paid and want to go win.”
Lovullo said Leake wasn’t at camp Wednesday because he was getting a ”precautionary” MRI on his left wrist, which is his non-throwing arm. He said Leake was hurt during an accidental fall at home and that the injury wasn’t baseball related.
Lovullo said the injury was discovered Tuesday at a pre-camp physical. He hopes Leake will be in camp Thursday.
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