'Like riding a bike': Bassitt throws BP session

Right-hander's first bullpen session an encouraging sign for Melvin, A's

September 11th, 2021

OAKLAND -- Three weeks. That’s the timeline A’s right-hander gave himself to get back to throwing off a mound.

Mission accomplished.

For the first time since getting hit in the face by a line drive on Aug. 17 in Chicago, Bassitt took the Coliseum mound on Saturday for his first bullpen session. Following the bullpen, he participated in fielding drills off the mound, simulating comebackers with throws over to first base.

“Like riding a bike,” Bassitt said. “It’s good. Just felt good to get back up on there.”

Bassitt threw 35 pitches and showcased his full assortment -- sinker, fastball, cutter, slider, changeup and curveball. With the A’s set to head out for a six-game road trip that begins Tuesday against the Royals, Bassitt will travel with the club as he’s scheduled for his second bullpen session at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on Wednesday. That session will include hitters standing in the box to simulate live at-bats.

“I feel like my whole career has prepared me for this,” Bassitt said. “I’m OK with not really having a routine. It’s more just getting back out there, facing hitters and getting that adrenaline again. All these things are to prepare for that. It’s all in-game stuff.”

That Bassitt has progressed this quickly should not come as a surprise. This is what he’s visualized ever since he returned from Chicago after undergoing facial surgery to repair the fractured bones caused by the line drive.

Still, head injuries can be tricky to navigate. So the fact that Bassitt has followed the rehab trail without any hiccups is an impressive feat.

“I’m glad it’s gone in this fashion,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t surprise me with him. He’s prepared for it. He was pushing to get out there as quickly as he possibly could. With him, it’s gonna be all systems go. Today was the first step in the direction of trying to get back with our team.”

There is still no set timetable for Bassitt’s return. However, the prognosis is encouraging with each day that goes by. There was serious doubt over whether he would pitch at all this season in the immediate aftermath of the injury. On Saturday, Melvin said Bassitt could pitch “multiple outings” by season’s end.

Bassitt isn’t concerned with whatever role he gets, starter or reliever. He’s done both in his career. With the A’s in serious contention for a postseason berth, entering Saturday just one game back of the second American League Wild Card spot, the All-Star ace just wants a chance to contribute to the playoff push in any way he can.

“I’m surprised it’s going as smoothly as it is because of how much crap was wrong,” Bassitt said. “But once I had surgery and realized I’m going to be OK, I’m not surprised after that. I can deal with uncomfortable stuff.

“Watching the guys out there grinding and trying to get to the postseason is all the motivation I need.”