Bart 'doesn't back down' from challenge, rips homer

March 1st, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants offered no assurances to at the beginning of camp, making it clear that the 26-year-old catcher would have to compete this spring for both a roster spot and playing time. 

It’s still early, but Bart seems to be responding well to the challenge.

Bart continued his hot start in Cactus League play by going 2-for-2 with a double and a home run Tuesday afternoon in the Giants’ 7-5 loss to the Padres at Scottsdale Stadium. He is 3-for-4 with three extra-base hits and two RBIs through his first two exhibition games of the spring, keeping him at the forefront of the four-way catching competition.

Rule 5 Draft pick and non-roster invitees and  also are vying for time behind the plate.

“One thing I’ll say about Joey is that he doesn’t back down from a challenge,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “One thing we can do is go back to the beginning of camp and know that the messaging that we gave him isn’t making him uncomfortable.

“He’s going up there with a plan. He’s already made some adjustments that I’m sure he feels good about, and we feel good about. And he’s been fantastic behind the plate -- a real focused look from Joey so far. We just want him to keep it up.”  

Bart doubled off the right-field wall in the third inning and then slugged a solo shot out to left in the fifth. Bart, who laced an RBI double in his Cactus League debut against the Cubs on Sunday, said he worked on condensing his swing over the offseason to help him stay on the fastball and not get caught in between. 

“I’m just excited to compete,” Bart said. “It’s that time of the year to get back out there and come out and play hard. Whatever happens out there, it is what it is. I’m just coming to play hard and trying to do my best. That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Bart also impressed on the defensive end, especially when he flashed his strong arm by picking off Padres third baseman Tim Lopes from second base for the final out of the top of the fifth. The Giants have been encouraging their catchers to put a greater emphasis on back picks this spring, as pitchers will be limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance as part of Major League Baseball’s rule changes for 2023

“He was good behind the plate,” Kapler said. “Obviously, that back pick at second base was a rocket ship. It was a perfect strike. As you can see, we’re emphasizing back picks, and one reason is because it’s one of the few levers we can pull to control the running game with the disengagement rule.”

Cobb, Stripling make spring debuts 
was one of the Giants’ pitchers who was looking forward to experimenting with calling his own games via PitchCom this year. But he said he found it “challenging” to do so while also attempting to adjust to the pitch timer in his spring debut on Tuesday.

Cobb surrendered four runs on two hits -- including a towering three-run homer by David Dahl -- in a rocky first inning, prompting him to shelve the PitchCom device and allow Bart to call the game in the second. The 35-year-old Cobb rebounded with a 1-2-3 inning, retiring Brett Sullivan, Lopes and Trent Grisham to complete his outing.

Cobb remains interested in using PitchCom, but he said he’ll need to get more comfortable with the quicker pace before attempting to integrate the technology again.

“I think as it all slows down, you’re in tune with your delivery and you have a good feel for the clock, we’ll start playing with certain things,” Cobb said.

Fellow right-hander , who joined the Giants’ rotation on a two-year, $25 million deal over the offseason, followed Cobb and looked sharp in his San Francisco debut, striking out three over two scoreless innings.

The Giants view Stripling as a starter, but he ended up making his first outing in relief because of a scheduling quirk. Stripling wanted to make his next appearance on March 5, the day before his wife is scheduled to give birth to his second child, which happened to put him on the same schedule as Cobb.

“That kind of stuff never bothers me,” Stripling said of the relief outing. “Especially being a home game, I could treat it like I was starting. I was warming up out there like a starter. I did my full routine. I had to run in from the bullpen, which wasn’t part of the plan. But for the most part, it was a good start.”