The Giants did something that hasn’t been done in 40 years Thursday by letting starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner hit instead of using a designated hitter in an American League game. But the idea of Bumgarner making more history this summer by competing in the Home Run Derby is out.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy made that declaration before Thursday’s game against the A’s. There had been talk recently of Bumgarner possibly taking part in the competition during the All-Star break in July. Bumgarner had expressed interest in competing in the derby.
Bochy, though, said the idea has “been nixed.” He indicated that influence from the Major League Baseball Players Association had factored into the decision. Bochy also said his understanding is a pitchers-only home run hitting contest, another format suggested after more pitchers said they wanted in the derby, will not happen this year.
“I think the players union, of course they didn’t want a pitcher taking a player’s spot in the Home Run Derby,” Bochy said. “And I don’t think they were too keen on doing the pitchers thing this year. So they’re going to look at it some more and may come up with a format next year, I don’t know.”
Bumgarner is the career leader among active major-league pitchers with 13 homers, five of which he hit last season while winning his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award. He remains a strong candidate to make the National League All-Star team for his pitching, going into Thursday’s game against the A’s with an 8-4 record and 1.99 ERA.
According to the Giants and Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group, the Giants were the first team to intentionally give up the DH in an A.L. game since the Chicago White Sox allowed pitcher Ken Brett to hit for himself in 1976. Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine batted for himself in 2009 because of a lineup card mix-up.
Bochy said this “really wasn’t a tough call.” The Giants were facing a left-hander in Dillon Overton and light on right-handed hitters because of injury. The only right-handed hitter available on their bench Thursday was backup catcher Trevor Brown.
Bumgarner, meanwhile, has become an undeniable presence in the lineup when he starts, evidenced by how carefully opponents have pitched him the past couple of months. He has 11 home runs in 183 at-bats over the past three seasons.
“This isn’t done to have fun or make a joke of this,” Bochy said. “He’s earned this. He’s a pretty good hitter.”
Bochy said he gave Bumgarner the option of having a DH and not having to worry about hitting or running the bases.
“He goes, ‘No, you know, I’d rather hit,’” Bochy said.
The trade-off is that if Bumgarner comes out of the game, the Giants cannot replace his spot in the lineup with a DH. A relief pitcher or pinch-hitter would have to take that spot. But as Bochy pointed out, those are basically the rules the Giants are used to in the N.L.
“It’d be like our game,” Bochy said. “I don’t think in the negative, to be honest.”
Bochy said it “surprised me a little bit” when he learned how long it had been since a team had given up the DH. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he was not surprised that it happened Thursday.
“Not at all,” Melvin said. “They’re a little banged up, too. ... (Bumgarner is) a real hitter.”
▪ The Giants made a roster move before Thursday’s game, calling up Grant Green from Triple-A Sacramento to bolster their injury-depleted infield. To make room for Green, who was not on the 40-man roster, the Giants optioned pitcher Chris Stratton to Triple A and designated pitcher Jake Smith for assignment.
Green was in Thursday’s lineup playing second base. It’ll be his first game back from a nine-day absence due to a freak injury. Green said he was struck in the right knee by a bat that had been let go by a River Cats teammate while he was standing in the dugout. He required four stitches, which he had removed Wednesday.
“He was going to start today in Sacramento, so why not start him here?” Bochy said. “I talked to him. He says, ‘No, I’m ready to go.’ ”
The Giants were hurting with four infielders on the disabled list and Ramiro Pena sidelined by an ankle injury suffered when he collided with Mac Williamson on Wednesday. Pena had an MRI on Thursday that showed a sprained ankle, Bochy said. The fact they did not put Pena on the DL indicates the Giants believe Pena should be available within five to seven days. In fact, Bochy said trainer Dave Groeschner had told him there’s a possibility Pena could pinch hit this weekend.
By optioning Stratton, the Giants sent down their long man in the bullpen. Bochy said Derek Law can pitch multiple innings and George Kontos can provide length if needed.
“We think right now we’re OK,” Bochy said. “It could change after the game. It’s kind of day to day whether we need another pitcher right now. But we’re fine for today.”