Madison Bumgarner left the mound to a standing ovation at Raley Field on Friday night.
As a one-game member of the River Cats, he acknowledged the sellout crowd of 14,014 with a wave.
The Giants ace had mixed results against the Fresno Grizzlies in his rehabilitation assignment, pitching 3 2/3 innings for San Francisco’s Triple-A team, topping out at 92 mph as baseball analytics experts charted every move with radar guns and notes. Giants vice president Brian Sabean arrived by train from the Bay Area an hour before the game and took notes of his left-hander from the media box.
Bumgarner threw 62 pitches, 41 for strikes, allowed four runs on seven hits, walked one and hit one. He had just one strikeout, against former Yuba City High School star Max Stassi. With a pitch limit of 70, Bumgarner left with a 5-4 lead in a game Fresno won 8-7.
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Bumgarner said he was pleased with his progress as he works his way back from a sprained AC joint in his pitching shoulder suffered in a dirt-biking accident in April. It was the first time he’d pitched in Triple A since he was with Fresno in 2010.
“I don’t feel very far off,” Bumgarner said. “I felt pretty good. The results obviously weren’t very good. That’s not what’s important right now. The important thing is being healthy, and the stamina, and the arm strength, and all that. And I feel pretty good about it.
“The slider wasn’t great. Some were OK, and later on in the game, they got better. That’s the one pitch I’ve got to get a little better with before I’m ready, but it’s close.”
Bumgarner got off to a rocky start. He allowed a lead-off double to Tony Kemp, then hit a batter and then issued a walk to load the bases. He came off the mound at one point with an icy glare to home-plate umpire David Arrieta after delivering a pitch he thought was a strike but was called a ball. Bumgarner responded with three consecutive strikes, at 92 mph, 91 mph and 92 mph.
The Giants are 31-51, the second-worst record in the National League, so Bumgarner won’t be rushed back.
The River Cats begin a road trip Tuesday, so Bumgarner’s next two starts will be for Class A San Jose on Wednesday and July 10, because the Giants want him close to home to more easily monitor his progress. If all goes well, Bumgarner could return to the Giants by July 15.
Burmgarner, 27, the 2014 World Series MVP, said he is treating the rehab assignments as if it’s the start of the season.
“It’s kind of like spring training,” Bumgarner said. “Just getting the arm strength up and getting in shape to throw seven, eight, nine innings. I can’t go out there and throw 65 pitches; that won’t do much good. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to go.”
Bumgarner said he appreciated the Raley Field fans, many of whom hovered over the bullpen to peek at him during his pre-game warmup throws. Friday’s game was the River Cats’ first sellout this season.
“They were definitely excited,” Bumgarner said of the fans. “It was fun to be a part of and see, like baseball is supposed to be. Pretty fun.”