By Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner will pitch his All-Star Game two days before his National League teammates Sunday when he leads the San Francisco Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the final game of the traditional first half of the baseball season.
Making padding the club's best-in-baseball win total a higher priority than a chance for the staff ace to pitch in Tuesday's nationally televised exhibition of the stars, Giants manager Bruce Bochy broke the news to Bumgarner on Wednesday.
"Your priority is here," the veteran manager explained earlier this week. "You want these guys to have a chance to pitch in the (All-Star Game). But you're here to win and maybe win a championship.
"You can't change your rotation around so they can pitch in it."
In fact, Bochy has done the opposite. He has fiddled with his rotation this week to push Bumgarner ahead of schedule, assuring he would miss Tuesday's showcase.
The Giants took advantage of Thursday's day off to skip right-hander Albert Suarez in the rotation. If Bochy hadn't made the move, Bumgarner's next scheduled start wouldn't have been until the Giants' first game after the All-Star Game next Friday.
That said, the four-day break will allow Bumgarner to pitch both Sunday and next Friday.
Bochy followed the same script in 2014, pitching Bumgarner on the Sunday before the All-Star Game and again in the first game after the break. He won both games, 8-4 over the Diamondbacks and 9-1 at Miami.
In between, he was ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game, handing his spot over to teammate Tim Hudson.
This time, Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets will take the place of Bumgarner, who will nonetheless suit up for the game and be a part of the pregame introductions.
The Giants were in a much tighter battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West title in 2014. San Francisco went into the break a half-game up, only to see its rival eventually take the division by six games.
Bochy had the last laugh, however. He was able to arrange his rotation so that Bumgarner could start the wild-card playoff game at Pittsburgh, which the Giants won en route to the World Series title. Bumgarner wound up being the Series Most Valuable Player.
The Giants (56-33) walked off the field Saturday seven games up on the Dodgers (49-40), who hadn't taken the field for their night game against the San Diego Padres.
The Dodgers have won the last three NL West titles.
The Diamondbacks (38-51) are 11 games farther back, so far that they've begun what could be a sell-off before the July 31 trade deadline.
Arizona dealt closer Brad Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox during Friday's 6-2 loss to the Giants, accepting two Class A prospects in return.
Even though general manager Dave Stewart assured the trade "isn't the case of us throwing in the towel," manager Chip Hale admitted he understood the logic.
"It's just something that has to happen," he said of his last-place club, which also lost to the Giants 4-2 on Saturday. "We should have played better and these things wouldn't be happening."
One of just three NL teams assured of losing at least 50 games before the All-Star break, the Diamondbacks will send right-hander Archie Bradley (3-4) to the mound to duel Bumgarner.