Aces up: Bumgarner vs Greinke as Giants open at ArizonaPosted: Updated:
One of the best rotations in baseball could carry the San Francisco Giants a long way this season, especially with the addition of a much-needed, albeit expensive closer.
The ace of that powerful staff, Madison Bumgarner, gets the opening day start Sunday against Arizona in the debut of new Diamondbacks Torey Lovullo.
Zack Greinke starts for Arizona and surely hopes this opening day goes a lot better than his did in his desert debut a year ago.
The game will be played in downtown Phoenix, just down the road from the Giants' spring training facilities in Scottsdale.
"It's good that we've been there for two months," Bumgarner said. "It won't be a big shock to us."
Nor will the Diamondbacks lineup.
Arizona returns pretty much everybody from its 95-loss team a year ago. Outfielders A.J. Pollock and David Peralta are back from injuries and should bolster an already strong offense that was third in the NL in runs last season.
The Diamondbacks' pitching, though, was the worst in baseball. Greinke, brought in on a whopping six-year, $206.5 million contract, allowed seven runs in four innings against Colorado on opening day a year ago. He was slowed by injuries and finished 13-7 with a 4.37 ERA.
He had his final tuneup for this season on Tuesday.
"I'm as ready as I'm going to be," Greinke said after giving up three runs in four innings against Seattle. "There weren't any setbacks or anything throughout camp."
The easygoing Lovullo was bench coach for the Boston Red Sox before he was hired to replace Chip Hale, fired after last season.
"My particular style is going to be one that's going to make sure our team is prepared for the moment," Lovullo said, "being able to take advantage of any type of situation that will allow us to win a moment."
"I feel like a lot of what I will do is make sure that these guys are of sound body and sound mind to go out and compete in the space that they're most comfortable, and see where that takes us by the end of the night," he said.
Bumgarner was 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and 251 strikeouts last season. He was sharp in his final spring outing, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out nine in seven innings.
San Francisco bolted out of the gate a year ago, looking as if it could well rack up another even-year title after winning the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14. But the Giants sputtered in the second half, lost the NFL West to the Dodgers and were eliminated by the Cubs in the postseason.
"It was a tale of two different seasons, really," said manager Bruce Bochy, who enters his 11th year at the Giants' helm.
Late-inning relief was a real problem for San Francisco with 32 blown saves, and the Giants opened their wallet to fix that. Closer Mark Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million contract after earning 47 saves in 51 appearances for Pittsburgh and Washington last season.
The Giants are healthy and full of optimism.
"We know when we have everybody on the field we're one of the best teams out there," first baseman Brandon Belt said.
New Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen decided not to make any big personnel changes, saying there is talent on the roster and he wants to see what the players can do with another season, although that may change if Arizona is out of it by the trade deadline.
A capacity crowd is expected at hitter-friendly Chase Field.
"It's been a very productive camp," Lovullo said. "These guys have worked really hard to do what was asked of them. They've learned a lot of different concepts, a lot of different thoughts. But it's still baseball."
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report
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