Madison Bumgarner grew up fast and now he's "the man" in the Giants' rotation.
At age 23, Bumgarner is younger than Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey and Chris Sale. But he's already thrown more than 650 big-league innings, he's closing in on 50 career wins and he's won as many World Series titles as his boyhood idol, Roger Clemens.
In his fourth season, Bumgarner is no longer the fresh-faced kid holding down the back end of the Giants' rotation. He is the anchor, and on Tuesday, he'll be rewarded for his consistency when he steps onto the grass at Citi Field in New York to make his first All-Star Game appearance.
"That was a no-brainer for me," manager Bruce Bochy said of his choice to name Bumgarner to the National League All-Star team. "I wasn't going to New York without him."
The 6-foot-5 southpaw's pitching has evolved significantly since the Giants selected him with the No. 10 pick in the 2007 draft out of South Caldwell High School in Hudson, N.C., also known as "Bumtown" because of all the Bumgarners living in the area. In high school, Bumgarner modeled himself after Clemens, blowing batters away by throwing his fastball on roughly 80 percent of his pitches.
"I've learned how to throw some off-speed pitches since," Bumgarner said. "I have three off-speed pitches that I feel are pretty good and I'm willing to throw at any time."
In addition to his fastball, which tops out in the low 90s, Bumgarner developed a slider, a curveball and a changeup as he stormed through the minor leagues, jumping from Class A to the big leagues in just two years. Bumgarner made his major-league debut 38 days after his 20th birthday in September 2009, becoming the youngest Giants pitcher to ever start a game.
Buster Posey, who has caught Bumgarner since instructional league, said his teammate is learning the art of pitching at an advanced pace.
"Early in his career, he was more, 'Just go out and throw as hard as I can,'" Posey said. "I think he understands how to read hitters' swings a little bit better now, he understands what hitters are trying to do in certain situations and it's impressive for a guy who's only 23. It's exciting to think about what the future holds for him."
As good as Bumgarner's stuff is, his best asset on the mound might be his country toughness. Bumgarner seems to thrive under the bright lights and he always bounces back from adversity.
In 2010, he posted a 1.13 ERA in September and then he put himself in the record books by pitching eight innings of three-hit ball in a shutout victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series.
But Bumgarner was a question mark heading into the 2012 Fall Classic. The Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals had shelled him for 10 runs over eight innings of work in two NL playoff games and Bochy pulled him out of the rotation for Game 5 of the NL Championship Series. Bumgarner returned for Game 2 of the World Series after tweaking his mechanics and he held the Detroit Tigers to two hits in seven shutout innings. In 15 World Series innings, Bumgarner is yet to give up an earned run.
"He is country strong," Bochy said. "He's so strong mentally, sometimes you forget how old he is."
The southpaw opened the 2013 season where he left off in the World Series. He posted a 3-0 record and a 1.55 ERA in April, but then he hit a rough patch in May, going 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA. At the time, some questioned whether his heavy workload was catching up to him.
While many teams restrict the number of innings their young arms pitch (i.e., Strasburg and Joba Chamberlain), the Giants rode Bumgarner for 131²⁄³ innings in 2010, 204²⁄³ innings in 2011 and 223¹⁄³ innings in 2012 (playoffs included).
But Bumgarner bounced back in June and he's notched a 2.30 ERA in his past seven starts, earning five of the Giants' past seven wins.
"You look at the size of him, he can carry that load. We haven't babied him at all," Bochy said, adding: "And if you look at him, he's still throwing great."
With Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito all struggling with ERA's over 4.00 this year, the 23-year-old is suddenly the stopper in the rotation and his performance is why he'll be lining up with the greatest stars in baseball Tuesday night.
Bumgarner said he's honored to receive the invitation from his manager.
"It means a lot," he said. "I feel blessed to have the opportunity to go there and be a part of it."
Giants vs. Padres,
WHEN: Today, 1:10 p.m.
WHERE: Petco Park, San Diego
TV: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
RADIO: KNBR (680 AM)
He's no bum
A look at some key numbers from Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner:
45-35 Bumgarner's career record
X-X Bumgarner's record in 2013
3.02 Bumgarner's ERA in 2013
2 Seaons in which Bumgarner has thrown 200 innings and struck out 191 batters
15 Innings pitched in two World Series starts
0 Earned runs allowed in two World Series starts