SAN FRANCISCO — Madison Bumgarner’s return to the mound no longer looks like a speck in the distant future for the San Francisco Giants.
The staff ace, who has been out since a line drive broke his left pinkie on his final appearance of spring training, threw off the mound for the first time before Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
That puts him on track to pitch at the major-league level in the first week of June, based on the schedule laid out by manager Bruce Bochy. After Monday’s 20-pitch session — all fastballs — Bumgarner will go up to 30 pitches Wednesday and throw a third bullpen Saturday. He would then throw to hitters next week in Houston before what figures to be two rehab assignments in the minors.
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Bochy said the nature of the injury, which has allowed Bumgarner to maintain some of his arm and shoulder strength, allows for an accelerated ramping-up process.
“We’re not dealing with any kind of arm injury. It’s the finger,’’ Bochy said. “That’s why he’s letting it go the way he is now. If you watched the bullpen today, you’d think he’s making his next start. The issue right now is he’s got to build some stamina and strength, because he hasn’t been throwing that much.’’
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The Giants, who are coming off a 4-6 trip, have stayed afloat despite not having Bumgarner all season and losing fellow starter Johnny Cueto as well. They opened a seven-game homestand with a 20-21 record, 4½ games behind the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bumgarner said he feels healthy and back to normal now, but lamented all the time he has been away from the diamond. After avoiding the disabled list through his first seven seasons, he has had extended stints each of the last two years. He missed nearly three months in 2017 because of a shoulder separation incurred in a dirt-bike accident.
“Last year was obviously my fault. Those emotions are a little different,’’ Bumgarner said. “But this year it was just a freak thing on the last day of spring, and such a small thing at that. It’s amazing how much that pinkie can affect when it comes to, not just baseball but everyday life too. I’m definitely ready to get back out there.’’
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge L. Ortiz on Twitter @jorgelortiz.