OAKLAND — Madison Bumgarner wanted to make history with his bat this summer and he will -- just not the way he anticipated.
Bumgarner will become the first starting pitcher in 40 years to intentionally hit for himself in an American League park, but he will not get a crack at the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby next month in San Diego.
“That’s done, there will be no Home Run Derby for Madison,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s been nixed. It’s out for this year, but they’ll revisit it next year.”
Bochy said the MLB Players Association got involved and did not like the idea of a pitcher taking a position player’s spot in the event. The idea of a pitchers-only derby also did not go far.
The Giants did not actually prevent Bumgarner from taking part because it never got that far. He was not invited, so they never had to make a decision. Had Bumgarner gotten an invite, he likely would have taken his hacks. He was intent on being in the Home Run Derby, and Bochy and Dave Righetti are said to be okay with it.
The whole concept likely went off the rails when others — Jake Arrieta, Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, etc. — asked to be included. Bumgarner liked the idea of facing position players, but a pitcher’s event never got much traction.
As it is, Bumgarner will still have bragging rights when he goes to San Diego next month. He is the first starter to intentionally forego the DH since Ken Brett of the Chicago White Sox in 1976. The Tampa Bay Rays did it with Andy Sonnanstine in 2009 but only because of a mixup with the lineup card. Bochy said this wasn’t a difficult decision.
“I talked to Bumgarner just to see if he wanted to hit,” Bochy said. “He’s a competitor and he wanted to hit, and this keeps him in the same routine and he earned this. He’s a pretty good hitter and he’s facing a lefty (Dillon Overton). It really wasn’t a tough call. This wasn’t done to have fun or make a joke of it. He’s a pretty good hitter.”
The image of Bochy asking Bumgarner if he wanted to hit is a funny one. Of course Bumgarner wanted to hit, and Bochy said the pitcher's response was to ask if Bochy was kidding. Bochy made it clear that Bumgarner did not lobby for this, that it was the manager’s idea. The Giants will lose the DH spot if Bumgarner is pulled, but Bochy isn’t worried about that.
“It’ll be like our (National League) games pretty much,” Bochy said. “I don’t think in the negative, to be honest. Sure, anything can happen, and hey, I have to deal with that. I understand that.”
Bochy considered doing this once last year but the situation is a bit different now. The Giants are banged-up, so the gap isn’t as wide between the bench and Bumgarner. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reported that some A’s players wondered how this would go over with Giants bench players, but that won’t be an issue.
Bumgarner’s teammates know what he’s capable of. Riding a three-game losing streak, nobody will complain about Bumgarner doing this. They just want him to be the same old Madison Bumgarner.
“He wants to do his normal thing,” Bochy said. “And that’s to pitch and to hit.”