Madison Bumgarner begins new life as Diamondbacks' tone-setting ace

Alex Pavlovic
NBC Sports BayArea

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- So much about the scene was familiar. 

The black cowboy boots tucked underneath a clubhouse chair. The dozen heavy baseball bats lined up on the top row of the locker, just waiting for a chance to embarrass an opposing starter. The No. 40 on the back of the jersey. Even the fact that the owner of all these items was nowhere to be found at 7:30 a.m., having long since disappeared to the weight room or a back field where he could run sprints in peace.

The first day of Madison Bumgarner's spring was exactly the same as all of the others in so many ways, except Bumgarner took part in a morning workout at Salt River Fields, not Scottsdale Stadium. He has for most of his professional life been famous enough that he's the first starter to draw a crowd every spring, but this time, as Bumgarner spoke to a dozen reporters, he wore a black Arizona Diamondbacks cap.

This still is all hard to swallow for Giants fans. For Bumgarner it remains new, as well. Asked when he thought everything would feel normal, he smiled. 

"I'm hoping pretty soon," he said. "I'm still trying to find my way around the place."

Bumgarner's new spring home is a sprawling complex in North Scottsdale that is shared by the D-backs and Colorado Rockies and is the envy of the rest of the Cactus League. It's just six miles from Scottsdale Stadium, which is convenient for a player who still counts Buster Posey and other Giants veterans among his closest friends. 

Bumgarner is a D-back now, but he doesn't exactly plan to be a stranger. He quietly stopped by the new facility at Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday to say hello to some old friends, and he said he's excited about the spring matchups between the teams and the six series they play every year. 

"It's going to be fun, I think," he said. "I've obviously said many times what San Francisco has meant to me and my family. I'm excited for that."

Bumgarner admitted he already is thinking about that first game against the Giants. He doesn't plan to face any NL West opponents during the spring, so the first time he sees his old teammates should be the second series of the year for both clubs. After his press conference Wednesday, Bumgarner stood in a corner of the room with Giants beat writers and talked about what's to come.

Has he already thought about facing Posey?

"Oh yeah. Oh yeah," he said quickly. "Yes."

Before the Giants and Bumgarner get to that point, perhaps one side will confront what really happened during the breakup. Bumgarner signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Diamondbacks in December, choosing the NL West rival over the Giants, who sources have said offered about $70 million over four years. 

At the time, the Giants put out a statement thanking Bumgarner but did not go into detail. Two months later, Bumgarner said he didn't want to talk about those negotiations, preferring to keep the focus on a Diamondbacks team that provided everything he was looking for as a free agent. 

"A lot of ups and downs throughout the whole deal," Bumgarner said. "I was kind of prepared for a lot of different things, but in the winter it's different because you're at home and you're doing other things. Once the season starts, spring training starts, who knows the feelings you might get. But right now I'm just excited to be here and excited to get started with the Diamondbacks."

Bumgarner took part in his first team workout Wednesday morning and afterward said it felt pretty standard. "Baseball is baseball," he said. He expressed excitement about getting to know a young staff, and when questioned about his past couple of years, he said firmly that he believes he's the same pitcher he was five years ago. 

The D-backs are counting on that. Closer Archie Bradley said Bumgarner sent him a text shortly after signing and said he was ready to come in and compete. 

[RELATED: Shark will be tasked with leading Giants' staff this season]

"Not to put pressure on him by any means, but as a fan and a teammate, he sets the tone," Bradley said. 

For a decade, Bumgarner did that for the Giants. He'll now lead the way for the Diamondbacks, a dark horse contender in the NL. A lot has changed, but the expectations remain the same. Bumgarner seemed taken aback when a local reporter asked him what he expects from himself this year.

"What do I expect of myself?" he said. "To win a World Series again."

Madison Bumgarner begins new life as Diamondbacks' tone-setting ace originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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