If the Giants — surprisingly still in the National League West race (10 games back) and certainly in the NL Wild Card race (one game behind Chicago) — are looking to add a Major League arm to give them a boost for the pennant race at the trade deadline, it seems likely that the guy pictured to your left would have to be involved in any serious talks.
But anyone who’s seen Madison Bumgarner pitch will tell you that they’d be foolish to deal him.
Still more will tell you he might just be that big league arm they need.
Back when the Connecticut Defenders made their final trip into Waterfront Park this season — a trip in which Bumgarner did not pitch — I was able to spend a few minutes with the soon to be 20-year-old outside of the visiting clubhouse.
Mike Ashmore: A lot is being made about you being a 19-year-old kid in Double-A…do you feel like a 19-year-old kid in Double-A?
Madison Bumgarner: “Yeah, it’s weird. Not really, though. I just feel like one of the guys, you know. I don’t really think about the age difference.”
Ashmore: But you are more or less hanging out with a bunch of older guys…that wasn’t always the case when you were coming up through the lower levels…
Bumgarner: “When I first started playing in pro ball, it was a little different. That was really the only time. Last year there were some older guys on the team and then in San Jose and then here it’s been the same way.”
Ashmore: You’ve got grown men climbing over chairs to get you to sign your name on a baseball or a piece of paper or whatever…I guess what has the adjustment been like to really being in the spotlight on a full-time basis like you are now?
Bumgarner: It’s…I don’t know, I don’t really have a good answer for that. It’s definitely weird, at first especially. You don’t really have that…mostly it was little kids was all I’d had before. Now, people collect cards and stuff and always want your signature. It’s pretty cool though, that’s for sure.”
Ashmore: It has to be pretty cool to be on cards, too. Did you collect at all when you were a kid?
Bumgarner: “Yeah, it is. When I was about eight or nine, I did a little bit. I went through that stage, but I kind of grew out of it.”
Ashmore: You were the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft…take me back to draft day, what was that like for you?
Bumgarner: “We were at graduation practice in high school. It was definitely exciting. I didn’t really have a real good idea of where I’d go, I was hoping in the first round but I didn’t know what team. When they called my name for that spot, I was definitely thrilled. It was exciting to get started. It took a while to get the deal down.”
Ashmore: So you signed when you were 17 still…
Bumgarner: “I’d just turned 18, I was 18 for about ten days.”
Ashmore: So you went from being a high school kid to signing a multi-million dollar deal…did you have like a high school job or anything like that before all of that?
Bumgarner: “No. My parents didn’t really want me to get a job because they knew I’d have to work one day, so they wanted me to just have fun while I could.”
Ashmore: OK, so you went from essentially pitching for free to landing a bonus check for two million dollars…I think it’s safe to say most 18-year-olds don’t have that kind of cash in their wallets…
Bumgarner: “It’s humbling, because I couldn’t have got here without my faith in the Lord. It’s awesome to be able take care of your family and take care of your mom, because she’s taken care of me my whole life.”
Ashmore: What kind of role did your parents play in helping you in your career?
Bumgarner: “They were always there for me, you know. They drove me practice all the time, whenever I needed to. They’ve always supported me. I couldn’t be where I’m at without them, that’s for sure.”
Ashmore: In reading scouting reports on you, it seems the fastball is the big pitch for you. Is there something you feel makes your fastball stand out compared to other pitchers or your other pitches?
Bumgarner: “I don’t really know. I just know it’s my best pitch for sure. I’d like to be able to see it for myself, to be in the box or something and see me throw it. But I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”
Ashmore: So with your fastball where it is, how important is the command and execution of your secondary stuff to you?
Bumgarner: ”It’s definitely a lot more important the higher you go up. Here, it’s way more important than it was last year. The last year was way more important than it’s ever been for me in high school. You’ve got to keep locating. My slider and changeup is getting a lot better, so hopefully they’re both on the way to being plus pitches.”
Ashmore: In the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, the scouting report says that you kind of scrapped throwing the curveball in order to work on the slider…is that still a work in progress?
Bumgarner: “Well, I never really threw a curveball, so I don’t know where that’s coming from. I’ve heard a couple people say that. But I’ve thrown a slider the whole time.”
Ashmore: For someone who hasn’t seen you pitch before, can you kind of give me a self-scouting report on what kind of pitcher you and what you like to throw and so on…
Bumgarner: “I like to think of myself as a power pitcher. I don’t know, I just like to go out there and go after guys and try to get them out and stay in the game as long as I can. I’ve been trying to get quicker outs so I can stay in the game longer, so that’s kind of a tough adjustment from being more of a strikeout guy.”
Ashmore: When you look at the young pitching in this organization — yourself, Tim Lincecum, Tim Alderson — are you excited of being a part of that at the big league level soon?
Bumgarner: “Oh yeah. That’s for sure. I’d love to be there and contributing as soon as possible.”
Ashmore: You’ve got Alderson here with you on the Defenders, so naturally a lot of people are comparing the two of you. What is something you do better than him and what is something he does better than you?
Bumgarner: “I don’t know what I do better than him. He’s definitely a good pitcher. His offspeed stuff and throwing that for strikes, he can just do that any time in the count. He doesn’t really walk guys, doesn’t give up many hits or many runs. He’s just a good pitcher.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com