The A’s rotation has gone through some upheaval over the last week. A starting five that looked as talented and deep as any in baseball lost two young flamethrowers in a flash: A.J. Puk on the injured list with shoulder inflammation and Jesus Luzardo relegated to relief work after two weeks in quarantine following a positive coronavirus test.
Anxious types might also fret over Sean Manaea failing to crack 90 mph in Monday’s exhibition or Mike Fiers uncharacteristic lack of command in Tuesday’s preseason finale.
While there’s no point in stressing over two established veterans who will show up when the lights come on, fans on A’s Twitter did so anyway.
Chris Bassitt, however, might have calmed some nerves.
The right-hander was in complete command during his four innings against the San Francisco Giants, allowing a run on two hits with five strikeouts.
We all know the results don’t matter in these games, but the work certainly does. Bassitt was in complete control of his pitch arsenal, locked in and clearly ready to start the regular season. His work will begin Monday against the L.A. Angels with a turn in the rotation assumed only after Luzardo wasn’t ready for the assignment.
Bassitt essentially is a luxury starter, providing established depth most teams would love to own. He was supposed to be a bullpen guy last year as well, but an injury plague pushed him into the rotation. He was awesome in that role, going 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA over 144 innings.
He'll be ready to start as long as needed, taking a series of solid performances into the regular season. Tuesday’s late-inning effort is the only one you saw, but he has been equally effective in recent intrasquad games.
“He was throwing everything well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He had good command of his fastball. He was effective with the big, slow curveball. We really didn’t even get to his pitch count, which means he’s efficient and commanding the baseball with all of his pitches.”
These are all positives for a player who didn’t get as much work in as others during baseball’s shutdown period. He didn’t have a baseball facility or fellow players to work with near his home in Ohio, so he mostly worked on his own and felt a bit behind some others who were throwing bullpens and live batting practice throughout the months-long down period.
That’s why his recent performances, with pitch counts in the 50s, have been encouraging.
“They are a good sign because he didn’t throw as much as the other guys before camp,” Melvin said. “His last two times out, he has been terrific. I know he feels good about that going into the season.”