OAKLAND -- Franklin Barreto fell into the trap many young players encounter when they reach the Majors of trying to do everything humanly possible to impress his club. It has led to a rocky first week with more downs than ups. But the A’s have stuck with him, and they
OAKLAND -- Franklin Barreto fell into the trap many young players encounter when they reach the Majors of trying to do everything humanly possible to impress his club. It has led to a rocky first week with more downs than ups. But the A’s have stuck with him, and they are starting to see the 23-year-old get his feet under him as a result.
Barreto busted the game open with a three-run blast to cap a seven-run first inning in Saturday’s 13-2 victory over the White Sox at the Coliseum. The win moved Oakland into a tie for the second American League Wild Card spot with the Indians, who played the Twins later Saturday.
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A’s manager Bob Melvin addressed Barreto’s early struggles before the game, saying the club wants to stick with him long enough to see how the second baseman responds.
"It’s identifying a good ball to hit,” Melvin said of Barreto, who entered the day 2-for-23 with 10 strikeouts since getting called up June 30. “Once he does that, he’s going to be off to the races.”
Barreto finally found that “good ball” in the form of a curveball left down in the zone from White Sox reliever Ross Detwiler that he clubbed over the wall in left for a three-run homer.
“That first at-bat of a game for a younger guy who is trying to get some consistency is key,” Melvin said. “You get a hit in that first one, you can relax a little bit. That was the biggest hit of the game. We scored some runs before that, but that one puts some distance to where we can be pretty comfortable with where we are.”
While some hitters go up to the plate with a pitch already in mind to look for, Barreto said that approach tends to complicate things for him. So when Detwiler threw him sinkers on the two pitches prior to the low curveball, he wasn’t necessarily waiting on the breaking ball. It just happened to be in the zone, which in Barreto’s mind was a green light to swing.
“I’m not a player who looks for a certain pitch,” Barreto said. “I’m just trying to swing at a pitch in the zone.”
The home run was the only hit Barreto registered on the day, but he also drew a walk, which might seem insignificant on the surface, but it was the first he’s drawn since getting called up on June 30. It’s a sign of the improved comfort level at the plate Barreto has shown in recent games after racking up multiple strikeouts through his first few games.
“When I first got up here, I was swinging at the pitches the opposing pitchers wanted me to swing at,” Barreto said. “That doesn’t help me, so I’m trying to fix that. I just have to relax and swing at the good ones.”
Relaxing is something that has been impossible for Barreto to do in past big league stints, as he’s only seen his callups last for stretches of about two weeks, with most of his playing time coming off the bench. Now that he's getting a chance to start every day, Barreto no longer has to focus on putting together the perfect at-bat each time up. Perhaps that is the formula that can lead to him replicating the impressive Minor League numbers he put up this year, batting .296 with 12 home runs, 24 doubles, five triples and 48 RBIs in 73 games at Triple-A Las Vegas.
“Playing every day, you can make adjustments. Now I can do what I want to do,” Barreto said. “I have more confidence now.”
“He has that ability,” Melvin said. “For his size and stature, he’s got as much power as anybody. He’s a very talented guy. It’s just about getting him some playing time and getting him comfortable.”
Bassitt takes advice from vets
Facing the club that originally drafted him in 2011, Chris Bassitt grabbed hold of the early seven-run cushion and made it stick with six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out six batters.
Bassitt’s plan of attack was a dramatic change from his previous outing in which he allowed six runs over 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Mariners. On that July 6 start, Bassitt threw his curveball and changeup a combined total of 11 times. Against Chicago, he threw the curveball six times alone in the first inning.
“I threw a lot more curveballs and changeups, probably more changeups today than I had all year combined,” Bassitt said. “Seattle kind of exposed me a little bit when it comes to sitting in one little speed gap with the cutter and fastball, so I made an adjustment from there.”
Bassitt credited the switch-up to fellow rotation-mates Brett Anderson and Mike Fiers, who approached him after that start in Seattle with advice on integrating the two breaking pitches more often in order to avoid predictability on the mound. He ended up throwing the curve 16 times on Saturday while mixing in the changeup 13 times over his 96 pitches on the afternoon.
“This league is all about adjustments. B.A. and Fiers pulled me aside and told me I had to make a change,” Bassitt said. “I threw 13 or 14 or 15 changeups today today, that’s a realistic approach of putting a pitch in hitters’ heads. I hadn’t done that pretty much my whole career because I haven’t had to, to be honest. They told me it was time to bust it out, and that’s what happened today.”
Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.