AT&T Park — A little more than four hours before Chris Stratton began his outing on Monday night, Madison Bumgarner took the mound for the first time since March 23.
Bumgarner aced his 20-pitch bullpen — a big step on the road back from his fractured left pinkie.
As the San Francisco Giants pushed back to .500 (21-21) with a 10-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds, the offense carried the night, but Bumgarner was the topic du jour. The first seven questions of manager Bruce Bochy’s customary pregame press conference dealt with left-hander.
Bumgarner will throw his second bullpen on Wednesday, another on Saturday and then face hitters next week when the club travels to Houston. After that, Bumgarner will make his first rehab assignment.
“If you watched the bullpen today, you’d think he’s making his next start,” Bochy said. “That’s where he’s at. The issue right now is you’ve got to build some stamina and strength because he hasn’t been throwing that much.”
Eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list on May 25, Bumgarner’s current trajectory has him on track to debut at the close of the month or the start of June.
“He’s on schedule,” Bochy said. “Nothing’s changed with his schedule. It’s just a matter of when we bring him up. We give him another start or we let him do it here.”
Stratton’s wobbly outing provided yet another example of why the Giants are even considering such an aggressive approach. The starting staff entered the night ranked No. 12 in the National League in ERA.
After failing to pitch through the fifth inning in two of his last three starts, Stratton made it into the sixth — but didn’t record an out. Scott Schebler drilled the first pitch of the inning off the right-field arcade for a home run. Stratton proceeded to walk Tucker Barnhart, leading Bochy to trudge out of the dugout.
Stratton surrendered nine hits and a pair of walks in his five-plus innings, letting in four runs. Fortunately for the right-hander, who has struggled to recapture his early-season success, the offense was as lively as its been all month.
Two of the May heros — Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Crawford — set the tone. The right fielder and the shortstop drove in three of the first four runs. McCutchen doubled in each of his first two at bats, securing hit No. 1,500 in the process.
“Anytime your offense can do that, it makes it a lot easier on the mound,” Stratton said. “I wish I could have gotten a little deeper in the game there. I hate five[-plus] innings but I competed the best I could with what I had today.”
McCutchen has now hit safely in 13 consecutive games. The owner of a .230 average in April, McCutchen is now batting .364 since the calendar flipped.
Crawford is in the midst of a similar May renaissance. The shortstop, who sputtered to .190 average in April, is swinging at a clip of .412 in May.
“They’re such an important part of this lineup,” Bochy said. “And we did some really good things. We kept things moving.”
Soon enough, Bumgarner will be rejoining McCutchen, Crawford and the rest. Asked how Bumgarner has dealt with his extended layoff, Bochy cracked a grin.
“We stay away from him,” Bochy quipped. “He’s miserable.”
Bochy jokingly referred to the starter as Coach Bumgarner as he walked off the field during batting practice.
“His attitude is great,” Bochy said. “I think he’s just excited that he’s back throwing. That’s what he loves to do and that’s what’s tough for these guys when they can’t do that. But now he can get ready. It was pretty fun to watch him today — how focused he was on 20 pitches.”