Bart learning big leagues are big challenge

August 31st, 2020

Growing pains are to be expected with any young prospect who is navigating the Major Leagues for the first time. The Giants are learning that Joey Bart, their No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is no exception.

Ten days after he made his highly anticipated debut, Bart received a day off Sunday to reset following an up-and-down week in the big leagues.

“It just felt like he's endured a lot, from getting introduced to the Major League level not that long ago, to catching one leg of the doubleheader [on Thursday], DHing the other and dealing with some offensive struggles,” manager Gabe Kapler said before the Giants’ series finale against the D-backs. “It's been a lot, and a pretty big challenge, for Joey thus far, so I wanted to kind of show some respect for that.”

After doubling in each of his first three games with the Giants, Bart has since slowed down at the plate, going 2-for-22 with 11 strikeouts. Opposing pitchers have consistently attacked Bart with inside pitches to exploit the perceived hole in his swing, and the 23-year-old has not yet shown the ability to adjust back.

“People have done that to me for a while,” Bart said on Wednesday. “I know if I can stick to my game and not worry about what they're going to do to me and just do what I do, then I'll be fine. But yeah, that's definitely what they're going to try to do. It’s pretty evident.”

Several Giants pitchers have praised Bart for his work behind the plate, but he had trouble catching veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto on Tuesday. Cueto, who was working with Bart for the first time, couldn’t find his rhythm due to their communication issues and allowed six runs over four innings against the Dodgers.

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“I’m not going to blame him,” Cueto said afterward. “He’s a young guy who’s just coming up. But we didn’t have that communication. I like to work fast. But I’m not going to blame him, and I’m not going to make excuses. He has a bright future, and he’s going to get better. But my first time working with him, I struggled.”

The Giants paired Cueto with backup catcher Chadwick Tromp on Sunday, as the two have developed a good relationship this season due to Tromp’s ability to speak Spanish.

The jump to the Majors is a big one, particularly for someone like Bart, who logged only 87 plate appearances above Class A Advanced San Jose last year after missing time with a right thumb fracture. The Giants decided to have Bart open the season at their alternate training site in Sacramento to give him more time to develop, and that process has continued even now that he’s reached the Majors.

The Giants committed to making Bart their primary catcher when they promoted him, but the past 10 days have served as a reminder that his inexperience will show at times.

“I'm here to learn,” Bart said. “I have a lot of stuff I have to work on in my game. I take every day as a learning day, 100 percent. That's what I like about the game. I love learning, I love trying to get better and trying to figure things out. It's definitely a learning experience.”

Injury updates
• Right-hander Trevor Cahill underwent an MRI exam on Sunday that revealed joint inflammation in his left hip. He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and is viewed as day to day at this point.

“The scan also showed some wear and tear, nothing was unexpected.” Kapler said. “We’ll use the off-day to kind of think about our rotation coming up, so we’re not going to make an announcement on that yet.”

Cahill, who departed his start on Saturday in the fourth inning, said he has dealt with a similar hip issue in the past and has managed it without landing on the injured list.

• Outfielder Austin Slater (left groin strain) will head to Sacramento on Monday to ramp up baseball activities.

• Right-hander Jeff Samardzija (right shoulder inflammation) and left-hander Drew Smyly (left index finger sprain) threw “quality” bullpen sessions at Oracle Park over the weekend and are slated to throw in Sacramento on Tuesday, according to Kapler.