Bruce Bochy reveals he thought about starting Madison Bumgarner at first base


LAS VEGAS — Over the final month of the season, it became a daily battle for Bruce Bochy to just put a healthy lineup on the field. No position was hit harder than first base, usually one of the easiest spots for a manager to fill.

Brandon Belt’s season ended in the middle of September because of a knee injury that required surgery. Buster Posey, the other main option, went under the knife a couple of weeks earlier.

Pablo Sandoval, the backup at first, was already done for the year. Even Ryder Jones, the best option in Triple-A, went down to a fluke knee injury. Bochy ended up leaning heavily on rookie catcher Aramis Garcia, while also giving a few innings to middle infielders Joe Panik and Chase d’Arnaud. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. But the Giants also nearly called for their ace. 

Bochy revealed Wednesday that he strongly considered using Madison Bumgarner at first base in September, but ultimately he decided the injury risk was too great. 

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“We got in a situation where I needed some help there, and I was thinking about putting Bumgarner (at first) and maybe giving him a start there,” Bochy told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We were out of it, but I was concerned about his health. I just couldn’t do it because if something happened there, I’ve got to live with it. I’ve got his career to think about. 

“But he was so excited about the possibility. He was wearing me out. I really wanted to do it, but if something happens then I’m looking for work.”

The plan never got too far down the line. Bochy said Bumgarner didn’t even take grounders to prepare because there was too big a risk of him taking a bad hop and getting hurt while practicing. 

The concept still intrigues Bochy, but not because it’s something he’ll try next year, the last of Bumgarner’s contract. Bochy is a fan at times, too. He said he simply wants to know what Bumgarner could do as a full-time hitter. 

“I would be really, really curious to see — if you threw him out there every day at first base, if you got him ready to play — what his numbers would be at the end of the year,” Bochy said. “I think he would hit over 20 home runs.”

For years, Bumgarner has lurked over Bochy’s shoulder late in games, with his spikes on and a bat in his hand, ready to hit if called upon. Bochy did not take the risk of putting him out in the field for three or four at-bats, but he still did give Bumgarner an opportunity to make his mark at the plate. On Sept. 25, the lefty was sent up in the 12th inning and hit a walk-off single to beat the Padres. 

“He’s not afraid, first of all,” Bochy said. “He’s so confident and takes a lot of pride in his hitting. It’s a good swing. It works. Mechanically, he could be as sound as anybody on our team, I’m being honest. He’s slightly open, but when he gets in that launching position, the way he fires his hips and everything, that’s why he has so much power.”

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