"Phone, phone," mumbled Sandoval, as he made his way into the darkened clubhouse. "Phone, where are you…"
It was probably in his locker. He ought to keep better track of his things, but after a game like today it was a miracle that Sandoval hadn’t left his head in his locker. 10-0. 10-0, what the hell.
The light was still on in the locker-room, and Sandoval could hear voices as he pushed open the door. Weird that people were still here at this time of night.
"Hey," said Sandoval. "I’m just, uh. What."
Bumgarner and Bochy were frozen, looking at him. Bochy looked fine, maybe a little… manic. But Bumgarner was practically naked, with just boxers and one leg stuck in his jeans as he pulled them on. Or pulled them off. And he looked sort of damp.
"I didn’t—" Sandoval backed away, waving his hands. "I’m not—I just was looking for my phone, sorry. Sorry."
"Wait, no, it’s not what it looks like." Bochy jerked himself forward and pulled Sandoval into the room, shutting the door behind him. "We’re not doing anything, uh. Anything inappropriate. This is about baseball."
Bumgarner looked at Sandoval with blank eyes and finished pulling on his pants.
"Look, I’m not a rook." Sandoval detached Bochy’s fingers from his shirt. "You don’t have to explain anything. Bum, you seen my phone?"
Bumgarner didn’t respond, just grabbed a shirt from the bench and put it on.
"Bum?" Sandoval took a couple steps closer. "Hey, you okay? Bochy, you do something to him?"
"I’m trying to tell you," said Bochy. "He’s—"
"I’m okay," said Bumgarner in a flat drawl. "I’m ready to pitch."
"Ready to pitch?” Sandoval shook his head. “You just did that Sunday, man. Tomorrow is Hudson.”
"I didn’t pitch Sunday," said Bumgarner. He picked up a ballcap and set it on his head, crossed his arms. "I’m ready."
"I was there, I seen you," said Sandoval. "What the hell is going on?"
Bochy looked at Bumgarner. He looked at Sandoval. He looked at the floor. Finally, he appeared to make a decision. "This Bumgarner didn’t pitch. This one's a clone, we just decanted him."
Sandoval looked at Bumgarner. He looked at Bochy. It took him a lot less time to make a decision, so he didn't have to look at the floor. "Look, you can tell me you’re gay. Or bisexual, whatever. No judgment, okay? Just tell me you’re being honest with your wives."
"Pablo, could you please—" Bochy sighed. "Madison! Get in here."
"Coming!" Footsteps outside, and then Bumgarner pushed open the door. He was wearing some kind of lab coat and a pair of rubber gloves, his hair held back by safety goggles. "Oh, hey Panda, what’s up? I found your phone, it’s—" Bumgarner patted his pockets and eventually produced the phone. "Here."
"Holy shit," said Sandoval. "Holy—Okay. I need to sit down."
The clone helpfully moved over so Sandoval could collapse on the bench.
"See? Nothing untoward happening here," said Bochy. "I mean, the commissioner wouldn’t like it, but what he don’t know don’t hurt him."
"You know about this?" Sandoval asked Bumgarner. "You’re letting Bochy do this?"
"It was my idea." Bumgarner peeled off his gloves and walked over so he could sit down too. "We’ve been working on it for months, I’ve been taking online classes in biology and everything."
"Why?" asked Sandoval. "Why would you do this?"
"So I can pitch." Bumgarner’s eyes gleamed. "Tomorrow’s just the start. When this project’s done, I’ll be able to pitch every day of the week."
"You know we need him," said Bochy. "You saw Peavy tonight. We can’t afford another outing like that."
Sandoval looked at the clone, who was still standing with his arms crossed, eyes fixed on the wall. "He throws just like you?"
"Not just like me," said Bumgarner. "We made this one a reliever. Needs less time to warm up, less time to get a feel for the game. Can just come right out and smoke ‘em."
"We’ve tried all kinds of variations," said Bochy. "There’s a closer in the vat right now, for next season."
"And when he’s done, I’m gonna start working on a knuckleballer," said Bumgarner. "Always wondered if I could throw a knuckleball."
Sandoval couldn’t take his eyes off the clone. “He just.. throws? He doesn’t do anything else?”
"He does post-game interviews," said Bochy. "Hey, Bumgarner, what do we say to Erin Andrews?"
"Y’know, I just try to go out there and make pitches." The clone shrugged, and smiled with a closed mouth. "I have a great team, I’m very fortunate."
Bumgarner grinned. “It was really hard to teach that. That’s really something, right?”
"Yeah," said Sandoval. "Something."
"Look," said Bochy. "You don’t have to approve. I just need to know you won’t tell the commissioner’s office. Or the press. Or anyone. I don’t—The team isn’t ready to know about this yet."
"Oh, you think?" Sandoval waved a hand. "This is a crime against man and God, right here."
"Sometimes the ball just goes your way," said the clone. "I’m fortunate."
"Come on, man," said Bumgarner. "I just want to pitch, y’know?"
Sandoval thought about it. He thought about the bullpen, and the 10-0 loss, and about how much he really wanted to win the Series. Then he sighed and stood up. "Okay. Give me my phone, I’m going back to the hotel."
"You won’t tell anyone?" asked Bumgarner.
"No," said Sandoval. "Promise. Phone?"
Bumgarner passed it over, beaming. “You won’t regret this, man. It’s gonna be amazing.”
"I better not," said Sandoval. "It better be."
"I keep getting real lucky this time of year," said the clone, still smiling at no one. "I’m just happy to be here, y’know?"