SCOTTSDALE — Thursday’s pitching duel between Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta never materialized. Instead, two National League powerhouses nearly cleared their benches.
Madison Bumgarner and Jason Heyward exchanged words in the fourth inning at Scottsdale Stadium after Heyward twice nodded back toward the mound following a strikeout. Heyward told Bumgarner he wasn’t nodding toward him, leaving just one other possibility in the minds of the Giants: He was gesturing at Dexter Fowler, who could have been tipping pitches or locations from second base.
“There’s only one other person for him to be talking to, and that’s down at second base,” Bumgarner said. “He didn’t say anything to me. He just looked at me. It looked like he was upset and there’s only one reason for that.”
The Giants took exception to it. Asked if that kind of thing is admissible during a spring game, Bumgarner shook his head.
“No it’s not. It sure isn’t,” he said. “You might want to be a little more discreet about that if you’re going to do that kind of thing.”
The Cubs offered a different story. Heyward and Fowler were waiting for reporters when their clubhouse opened, and they laughed as they told their story. Heyward said the pitch was a good one, but it was close, so he looked down at Fowler to see if it was a correctly called strike. He denied that Fowler was giving him tips.
"It was a misunderstanding," Heyward said. "No tipping of signs. I understand people would say, 'Oh they wouldn't tell us anyway.' But I mean, believe it or not, genuinely that wasn't going on -- especially not in a spring training game. I wouldn't show up my teammate if they ever gave me the wrong sign or anything like that. That just looks bad in itself. I understand. (Bumgarner) is a competitor and that's what makes him so special."
Heyward repeatedly praised Bumgarner, and he jokingly blamed Fowler for not being more demonstrative when he checked if the call was a good one.
"There's irony in all of this, because Dexter was so discreet that I was still waiting for a response," Heyward said. "I was like, what does that mean? Give me a thumbs up on the side. I didn't see it so I was still looking. I was getting ready to turn and Buster (Posey) was like, 'Hey, hey, hey, what have we got?' I was like, well this doesn't look good, but it wasn't what you guys are talking about."
After taking the cutter down the middle and nodding toward the field, Fowler started walking back toward the Cubs dugout. Bumgarner stepped off the mound and walked toward Heyward, who turned back. As players and coaches started to come off the benches, everything settled down. Bumgarner waved the incident off after a few seconds and was removed from the game, having reached his designated pitch count.
A couple hours later, Fowler joked that it was a learning experience.
"The moral of the story is, I'm going to go like this!" Fowler said as he smiled and flashed an exaggerated thumbs-up at Heyward.
Bumgarner pitched 3 2/3 innings and said he felt fine physically and got his pitch count into the 80s. For stretches -- including a two-strikeout second inning -- he looked much sharper than he has at other times this spring. The Giants used a DH because Bumgarner had a rib injury early in camp, but he said he will start taking BP again on Friday.
Bumgarner was charged with five runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked three. All in all, he said it was a good day of work.
“I was glad to get some walks out of the way, too,” Bumgarner joked.
The two teams ended up playing a shootout. Arrieta was pulled with a blister after giving up four straight hits and then walking two in the first inning. After Bumgarner left, the Cubs got back in the game with an eight-run inning.
"I mean, this is what people pay to see, right? "Heyward said.