Madison Bumgarner's rehab start couldn't have gone any better

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SACRAMENTO -- The River Cats planned to hold batting practice in their indoors cage on Saturday afternoon. A few minutes after 4 p.m., Madison Bumgarner walked onto the field with a bat, and, well, soon enough the entire starting lineup was hitting on the field.

This night was about one man, and for Madison Bumgarner, it couldn't have gone any better. Bumgarner threw 3 2/3 hitless innings in his first rehab start, striking out eight and showing good fastball velocity and command of his whole repertoire.

The performance was so overwhelming that it's easy to imagine the Giants shredding the rehab calendar and asking Bumgarner to throw 60-70 pitches in the big leagues on Friday. Would he be ready?

"I think so," he said. "I obviously didn't know before today, but judging off the way it felt today, I think so, for sure."

In his first game action since suffering a pinky fracture at the end of spring training, Bumgarner walked off to a standing ovation after 47 pitches. The lone baserunner came on a one-out walk in the third.

"It wasn't perfect, but definitely something to feel good about the first time out," he said. "

The Giants originally planned to have Bumgarner make at least three rehab starts, with the next one set for Thursday in San Jose. But there was wiggle room in the plan, and when Bumgarner looked sharp in a live BP session on Tuesday, some team officials joked that they had seen enough to slide him right into a rotation that struggles to get even five innings from members of the starting staff. 

Bumgarner was realistic, and he had particular curiosity about the validity of his off-speed pitches after such a long layoff. So far, so good. 

He struck out the side in his first inning, getting one on a cutter and one on a curveball. Five other strikeouts came on a fastball that sat 90-91 mph and topped out at 92 in his final inning of work.

Then there was the strangest moment of the night, a 61 mph offering to opposing pitcher Antonio Senzatela that froze him for a strikeout. The slow curve is a pitch Bumgarner has mixed in in the past. It was surprising to see him test it in a rehab start.

"I thought of it three seconds before I threw it," he said, smiling. "I was just kind of feeling it out."

Bumgarner's quick work meant he lasted long enough to get a wanted at-bat. Wearing a padded glove to protect his pitching hand, he smoked the first pitch of the third into right field for a single. The fact that it was not pulled appeared to be the only flaw Bumgarner could find on a very encouraging night.

"I was a little tardy there," he said. 

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