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Bart's 1st hit contributes to Giants' romp

@mi_guardado
August 21, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans have been clamoring for Joey Bart’s debut since Opening Day. Their enthusiasm was echoed by a few of the club’s players, who praised Bart throughout Summer Camp and voiced their belief that the 23-year-old catcher was close to big league ready. President of baseball operations

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants fans have been clamoring for Joey Bart’s debut since Opening Day. Their enthusiasm was echoed by a few of the club’s players, who praised Bart throughout Summer Camp and voiced their belief that the 23-year-old catcher was close to big league ready.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler disagreed, maintaining that Bart could benefit from further development at the alternate training site after missing time due to injuries last year. Amid the noise, it would have been easy for Bart to grow frustrated with management’s desire to slow his timeline. But a similar experience during his sophomore season at Georgia Tech taught him to be patient.

“I was really uptight about making the collegiate national team,” Bart said. “Moving down through the stretch of that year, I put a lot of pressure on myself. It was something I really wanted to achieve, and it didn’t work out for me. I didn’t end up making the team. I think that experience has really helped me be patient and just understand that things all happen for a reason. My time is going to come, and when it is here, I’m going to make the most of it.”

That moment finally arrived on Thursday night, when Bart made his highly anticipated debut in the Giants’ 10-5 win over the Angels at Oracle Park. Bart started behind the plate and went 1-for-4, doubling off right-hander Julio Teheran in the sixth inning for his first career Major League hit.

Box score

Bart’s rocket down the left-field line flew off the bat at 109.5 mph, the highest exit velocity on an extra-base hit by the Giants this year.

“I wasn’t really stressed about getting a hit,” Bart said. “I knew I just had to keep going up there and trying to make good selections, do what I do and try to hit the ball hard. I got a good pitch to hit and I hit it hard. I was really happy about that, but the defensive side is really what stays in my mind more than what I’m doing at the plate.”

Bart wasn’t the only Giant to collect a milestone hit, as shortstop Brandon Crawford crushed his 100th career home run, a solo shot to the opposite field off Teheran in the fourth inning. Wilmer Flores also homered for the second consecutive game, finishing 3-for-4 with four RBIs.

“It’s definitely special,” said Crawford, who joined Rich Aurilia and Hall of Famer Travis Jackson as the only shortstops to hit 100 home runs for the Giants. “It’s a testament of being able to stay on the field throughout the years, and the Giants having faith in me to sign me to a long-term deal. Being here for so many years, I guess you’re eventually going to hit some of those milestones. To be a fan growing up watching the Giants, you never really expect to hit some of those milestones with some of the great Giants of all time.”

After dropping Monday’s opener in Anaheim, the Giants rebounded to win a season-high three games in a row and clinch this home-and-home series against the Angels. It marked the club’s first series victory since it took two of three from the Rangers on July 31-Aug. 2.

The Giants, who struggled mightily to score runs at home in 2019, have looked far more comfortable at Oracle Park this year. They are averaging 6.5 runs per game over their first 11 home games of 2020, up from 3.3 runs per game last year. Before the game, Zaidi acknowledged that the club’s ability to put up runs should help take some of the pressure off Bart, who won’t be expected to carry the offense despite his tantalizing upside as a hitter.

“We didn't necessarily have it in our minds that we wanted to call him up while the offense was trending,” Zaidi said. “It's serendipitous timing that the offense has been scoring some runs. We've won a couple of games. It's certainly nice to call him up when there's some positive momentum. I do think with any young player, you don't want a guy to feel like he's coming up and has to like carry the offensive load. Hitting at the big league level is probably the toughest jump to make when you get to this level, so I certainly think that'll be helpful. He’ll have plenty on his plate where we wouldn’t want him to feel like he's got to be a primary run producer.”

Bart caught most of the Giants’ pitching staff during Spring Training and Summer Camp, but he also spent part of his time in Sacramento studying the club’s Major League arms to stay ready in the event of a possible promotion. Right-hander Kevin Gausman, who earned the win after giving up four runs over 5 1/3 innings, said he was impressed with Bart’s pitch framing and his poise behind the plate on Thursday.

“I think with me, I pitch up in the zone so much,” Gausman said. “Some catchers, they focus so much on being such a good low-ball catcher that some guys have a hard time catching me because of that. With him being such a big body, he doesn’t really have to do much, and he sets a good high target.”

Gausman and Kapler both said they didn’t sense any nerves from Bart, who has exuded a quiet confidence in his time with the club.

“He doesn’t feel especially tense in any part of his game, and I think that’s going to serve him as he makes this transition,” Kapler said. “Buster Posey is in a class of his own. He is a Hall of Fame catcher and also very, very calm. I’m not saying that Joey is going to be Buster, but a lot of the calmness and relaxed nature that Buster brings to the ballpark every day, Joey kind of brings some of that as well.”

Bart said Posey, who elected not to play this year, sent him a congratulatory text message before the game.

“It meant a lot to me,” Bart said. “Unbelievable guy.”

Even more well wishes awaited Bart after Thursday’s win, with the bulk of them coming from his friends and family back in his hometown of Buford, Ga. Bart said he was determined to respond to each message to show his appreciation for everyone’s support.

“I come from a small town, and I think that’s been the real eye-opener to me,” Bart said. “I think I’m going to be the first one from my town to take the field tonight. If you know me, you know I’m really passionate about where I come from. I love everyone back there. ... I play for my teammates, myself, but also where I come from, and that’s really important to me.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.