But Bumgarner will take the mound to face the Phillies on Tuesday night at AT&T Park with a new five-year, $35 million contract extension in hand, and high expectations tend to come hand-in-hand with new contracts. The 22-year-old lefty is hardly worried about that, however. In fact, he thinks pitching free of any future contract concerns will only help him.
"It comes down to what's best for you and your family," Bumgarner said Monday about his new deal, which extends into 2017 and includes two option years. "I felt this was the right decision for us to make. I'm excited to be here and not have to worry about that [contractual] stuff now, just go out there and pitch. That's all I need to focus on. It kind of took a weight off my shoulders."
Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton removed a burden from his shoulders as well Thursday with a strong first start of the season. Blanton battled through an injury-plagued 2011 season and wasn't particularly effective when he was on the mound, posting a 5.01 ERA in only 41 1/3 innings.
But he put that behind him Thursday against the Marlins, allowing only one run on three hits and a walk over seven innings. He pointed to his fastball command and solid defense behind him as the main reasons for his success. But more importantly, considering the way his 2011 went, he felt strong. He didn't feel any pain or tightness in his right elbow.
"As a pitcher, being around a little bit for where your stuff is and how you feel," Blanton said after that start, "by the end of spring, I had a good feel that my stuff was pretty good and physically I felt good. I had a lot of positives coming out of spring and I took it through tonight, and hopefully I can keep it going."
Bumgarner is coming off a strong start of his own Thursday at Coors Field, when he picked up his first win of the season. He tossed 7 1/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits and two walks while striking out two.
"I was trying to get quick outs, keep us in there," Bumgarner said. "We had a four-run lead, try to keep it at that. I was trying to make pitches instead of trying to strike people out on the first pitch of the at-bat."
Phillies: Howard's heel continues to improve
First baseman Ryan Howard visited a wound specialist at Thomas Jefferson University on Monday to further examine his injured left heel. According to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., Howard's wound is continuing to heal.
After undergoing surgery to repair his ruptured left Achilles tendon, Howard suffered a setback in February, when an infection developed and required another surgical procedure. There is still no timetable for his return.
"The biggest challenge was for the wound to get to the skin from how deep it was," Amaro said. "It's getting there. It's getting pretty close. ... The question is when does he start doing stuff so it doesn't compromise the healing process? We're still on hold as far as that is concerned. Hopefully we'll know more in the next couple of days."
Second baseman Chase Utley (left knee) is continuing his rehab in Arizona, Amaro said, and should join the Phillies next week when they head to Arizona to face the D-backs. There is no timetable for his return, either.
"His strength seems to be improving," Amaro said. "He's moving forward."
Giants: Wilson diagnosed with "moderate" UCL sprain
Giants closer Brian Wilson's injured right elbow might not necessarily require surgery. According to a CSNBayArea.com report Monday, Wilson has been diagnosed with a "moderate" sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Wilson has sought out multiple opinions regarding the injury; he visited Dr. Lewis Yocum on Monday and has an appointment scheduled with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday.
He seemed resigned to the idea that he'll miss the entire 2012 season when he spoke to reporters Sunday. He indicated then that he would likely undergo Tommy John surgery for a second time.
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, recovering from a dislocated shoulder, suffered a "minor" setback when he felt soreness in his right shoulder Monday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Sanchez, who has been out since June, was playing in an extended spring training game in Arizona when he felt the pain.
Sanchez will rest for a day or two and report to Class A San Jose on Wednesday or Thursday to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
Former Giants and Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell will throw out the first pitch Tuesday night. Burrell, who was drafted by Philadelphia and spent most of his career there, was with San Francisco for the club's World Series run in 2010 and was limited by injuries last season. He will sign a one-day Minor League contract with Philadelphia and retire with that organization during the Phillies-Red Sox series on May 19 at Citizens Bank Park.
Phillies infielder Mike Fontenot, who last played with the Giants, passed his physical and is going to work out in Clearwater, Fla., for about a week. Signed to provide the organization with more middle-infield depth, Fontenot will then join Triple-A Lehigh Valley.