The Diamondbacks brought an early end to left-hander Madison Bumgarner’s year, pulling the plug on what has been a brutal season to instead create opportunities for some of their young pitchers to continue making starts.
Manager Torey Lovullo said Bumgarner’s performance on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium — in which he gave up just one run on one hit in six innings — gives him a positive on which to build heading into the winter.
“He’s perfectly healthy,” Lovullo said. “I made the decision that he had an unbelievable start in his last start. I just felt like let’s end the year on that and get after a healthy offseason.”
Lovullo said that while Bumgarner is a competitor he went along with the decision, which should allow right-hander Drey Jameson and lefty Tommy Henry to each get another start while creating the chance for right-hander Merrill Kelly to pitch twice more as he pushes to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.
“Bum’s a good teammate,” Lovullo said. “He understood the rationale.”
Prior to his outing in Los Angeles, Bumgarner had struggled badly for the better part of two months, posting a 7.82 ERA over a nine-start span. He finishes with a 4.88 ERA in 158 2/3 innings.
In three seasons with the Diamondbacks, who signed him to a five-year, $85 million deal prior to the 2020 season, Bumgarner has logged a 4.98 ERA in 346 2/3 innings.
Lovullo said that while Bumgarner’s stuff “grades out in a fairly similar way” to when he was at his best with the San Francisco Giants a decade ago, he wanted to avoid comparisons to those versions of Bumgarner.
“I am going to work hard and I want everyone else to work hard at not going backwards and say what he used to be, but I’m going to really work hard and focus on what he can become,” Lovullo said. “This will be Act II of his career.”
Scouts acknowledge that Bumgarner’s velocity is, in fact, somewhat similar, but they say his pitches do not seem to have the same action as before. One scout with a National League club said his fastball does not have as much carry — i.e., late life through the zone — nor does he command it as well, adding that Bumgarner’s curveball isn’t as sharp and his cutter command has backed up.
“It’s like a half-grade of difference in a lot of different areas,” the scout said, “that when they interact together result in a significant drop off.”
Whether Bumgarner and the Diamondbacks can find a way for him to pitch more effectively apparently will be a task for the winter.
“It wasn’t a good year,” Lovullo said. “We know that. In talking to him, some adjustments need to be made. He will make those quality adjustments.”
Bumgarner, who was not available for comment, has said in the past he does not tend to throw off the mound much, if at all, during the offseason. It is unclear if that will change this winter, but Lovullo seemed to expect Bumgarner will put in the work necessary before camp.
“Bum’s got a long offseason,” Lovullo said. “He’s going to go to work. He’s going to take some time off and then he’s going to pick up a baseball and start to get to work with an eye on 2023 and helping us win.”
Bumgarner has $37 million remaining on his deal: $23 million in 2023 and $14 million in 2024.
Outfielder Jake McCarthy, who has been on the bereavement list and away from the team since Friday, is expected to be reinstated in time for Tuesday’s series opener in Houston.
*Outfielder Corbin Carroll and right-hander Brandon Pfaadt were named the Diamondbacks’ minor league player and pitcher of the year. Carroll, who was promoted to the majors late last month, hit .307/.425/.611 in 93 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He could come away with a number of player of the year awards; USA Today named him its minor league player of the year last week.
Pfaadt logged a 3.83 ERA between Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno — two extreme hitter-friendly environments — while striking out 218 batters in 167 innings. He became the first minor league pitcher since 2011 to exceed 200 strikeouts and recorded the most since the Yankees’ Brandon Claussen struck out 220 in 2001. Pfaadt was at Chase Field on Sunday to be honored but will rejoin Reno and is scheduled to pitch Friday in a Triple-A playoff game.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Diamondbacks pull plug on Madison Bumgarner’s season