DENVER -- Losing the fifth-starter competition in Spring Training could have been one of the best things to happen to Madison Bumgarner.Beginning the season with Triple-A Fresno instead of the Giants enabled Bumgarner to learn a new pitch: a slider, which he began throwing about a month into the season. Bumgarner picked it up from Horacio Ramirez, a fellow Fresno starter with big league experience, and refined it with help from Grizzlies pitching coach Pat Rice. "It turned out to be a pretty good pitch for me," said Bumgarner, who lost his first two starts with the Giants but showed promise by lasting seven innings in each. "It's my best offspeed pitch now. That's one reason I'm glad I got sent to Triple-A. Some good things came out of it." Buster Posey, who has caught Bumgarner with the Giants and Fresno, noticed the slider's effect.
"He's already got a fastball that's tough for people to pick up," Posey said, "so when you have to respect the breaking ball, too, it makes the fastball even better."
Molina weighs in on Giants experience
DENVER -- Bengie Molina immediately showed the Texas Rangers and their fans what he's all about.Molina, traded from the Giants to the Rangers this week, spoke eloquently of his San Francisco experience upon joining his new team on Friday. "When I was with the Giants, I became a brother. I became a father, sometimes," said Molina, one of only three two-time winners of the "Willie Mac" Award as the Giants' most inspirational player. "I became a guy who took aside a lot of the young kids and talked to them about not only baseball, but life itself. And how difficult it is out there. I don't think I do it to show off, it just comes out natural for me. That's the person I am." Molina, who spent three and a half seasons with the Giants, sounded as if he already had overcome the shock of the trade. The Giants pursued the deal since it gave catcher Buster Posey the opportunity to play more frequently and because it brought them two potentially useful pitchers, reliever Chris Ray and starting prospect Michael Main. "You've got to turn the page, because they didn't want you there," Molina told reporters who cover the Rangers. "I'm not necessarily talking about the players, but the ownership and GM obviously traded me. You've got to turn the page and you've got to see the positives. The positive is we're in first place and we're trying to win the whole thing. I'm just coming here to help. That's the way you've got to see it." Molina acknowledged the awkwardness of joining a team he knew little about.
"At the same time, when I got to the Giants, I didn't really know any of them," he said. "I was kind of in the same situation. They were depending a lot on me and all that, so I take it the same way. I'm up for the challenge."
Ray feels like old self after long recovery
DENVER -- Work is fun again for Chris Ray.The newest Giants pitcher underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2007, one year after he saved 33 games for Baltimore. Ray missed the entire 2008 season while making only nine injury rehabilitation appearances in the Minor Leagues, and he still felt out of sorts last season while recording a 7.27 ERA in 46 appearances for the Orioles. Ray explained that he was throwing sidearm and didn't gain comfort with a three-quarters release until August. In fact, he lowered his ERA from 10.24 to 5.54 while allowing one run in a 15-game stretch from June 29-Aug. 27. "I carried that into this year," said Ray, acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Bengie Molina trade. "I enjoy coming to the ballpark now." Ray, 28, was 2-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 35 appearances for Texas, which used him in a variety of relief roles. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that he would use Ray primarily in the sixth and seventh innings. Bochy added that he'll summon Ray at the earliest possible opportunity, since the right-hander hasn't pitched since June 25.
Zito's charity joins Fourth of July effort
DENVER -- Strikeouts For Troops, the organization founded by Giants left-hander Barry Zito, will be part of an effort to donate $500 for each strikeout recorded in every Major League game on Sunday, July 4.FLIR Systems, which specializes in thermal imaging, is partnering with Strikeouts For Troops in this initiative. Strikeouts For Troops will direct funds to the Fisher House Foundation, which builds homes around the country to house the families of wounded soldiers who are undergoing treatment at veterans' hospitals and medical centers. Fisher House's objective is much the same as Zito's, since Strikeouts For Troops focuses on bringing families and the war-wounded together, thus providing the comfort of home for soldiers. A check for the money raised will be presented to Zito on July 9 in a ceremony preceding the Giants' game at Washington. Groups of wounded soldiers and their families are expected to be in attendance.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.