SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Madison Bumgarner, known a bit for his power at the plate, was chatting with reporters this week when it was mentioned that Tim Hudson broke Frank Thomas' single-season RBI record when he was a pitcher/outfielder at Auburn.

"Yeah, he did," Bumgarner said, nodding slowly. "But this is not Auburn, OK. I hit like 15 homers my senior year of high school."

Hudson still has quality bat control and Bumgarner still bombs them in batting practice, but the Giants aren't looking for prolific numbers when their pitchers grab the bats. They're just looking for a slight improvement.

"We were terrible last year," Bumgarner said. "I know that's not what we're asked to do, but we want to contribute as much as we can."

San Francisco Giants’ starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws against the Milwaukee Brewers in the sixth inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco,
San Francisco Giants' starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws against the Milwaukee Brewers in the sixth inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

The Giants ranked last in the National League in pitchers' batting average (.096) and 10th in RBIs (14). A season after Bumgarner hit two homers, the entire staff combined for just two extra-base hits.

Bumgarner, the high school slugger, was 6 for 56. Tim Lincecum occasionally hits shocking strings of homers when taking B.P. at road parks, but he was just 6 for 57. Matt Cain, who has six career homers and hit .176 in 2012, had just five hits in 52 at-bats last season. A shortstop at Kutztown State in Pennsylvania, Ryan Vogelsong was 2 for 29 with 17 strikeouts.

The four, along with Hudson, have talked about the need to be better this season. The Giants pay tens of millions to their starters to excel on the mound, not at the plate, but these pitchers know that every edge helps in National League baseball.

"It seems like a lot of our rallies start with us or go through us," said Vogelsong, who fractured a finger last season when he was hit by a pitch while swinging. "You can look back to the (2012) playoffs and the pitchers were in the middle of everything."

Barry Zito, the rotation's lone departure -- and leading hitter (.147) last season -- played an integral part in two 2012 postseason wins, dropping down a perfect RBI bunt in the NLCS and lining a run-scoring single off Detroit's Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series. As they stormed to a title, the Giants got a run-scoring hit from a pitcher in four straight postseason games.

Zito has been replaced by Hudson, who hit .173 in nine seasons with the Braves and has homered in three of the past five seasons. In his first spring as a Giant, Hudson has joined the other starters in mandatory games of pepper, a throwback to Little League days. The big leaguers are looking to increase their bat control and focus.

The pepper sessions have been boisterous, reminding the starters that few things on a baseball field lead to more trash talk than a pitcher at-bat. There was plenty of ribbing after poor ones last season. This time around, the Giants starters are hoping to do a bit more bragging.

  • The Giants' first visit to Cubs Park in Mesa resulted in a rainout. Cain, the scheduled starter, headed back to Scottsdale Stadium to throw two simulated innings in the batting cage. Manager Bruce Bochy said Hudson remains the Sunday starter.

    For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.

    INSIDE

    Sonny Gray pitches his way out of trouble against the Rangers. PAGE 5

    GETTY IMAGES

    The Giants' Madison Bumgarner had only six hits last season and had a batting average of .107.

    OUT OF THEIR ELEMENT

    A look at how the Giants' probable 2014 rotation fared at the plate last season:

    Starter AB AVG. HR RBI
    Madison Bumgarner 56 .107 0 4
    Matt Cain 52 .096 0 2
    Tim Hudson* 38 .158 1 3
    Tim Lincecum 57 .105 0 1
    Ryan Vogelsong 29 .069 0 2

    * -- With Atlanta