Editor's note: The video above is from Sept. 24.
MESA, Ariz. -- Wanting to improve over the offseason, A’s starter Chris Bassitt didn’t have to search hard to find someone to emulate.
He spent the winter in Nashville working out with teammate Sonny Gray, and now Bassitt is trying to incorporate some of Gray’s mechanics in order to smooth out his own delivery.
Their winter headquarters was Vanderbilt University, Gray’s alma mater and a wintertime training destination for numerous ballplayers with ties to the school. Working out there also gave Bassitt a chance to train with 2012 Cy Young winner David Price, a close friend of Gray’s.
“Being around those guys, obviously they know what they’re doing and the results are proof,” Bassitt said. “Those guys are just so good. Just following their routine really helped.”
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Bassitt threw a bullpen session Wednesday, showing a delivery that looked similar to Gray’s at its starting point. Rather than face up squarely to the plate before beginning his windup, Bassitt rotated his body slightly to the right, almost giving the appearance of pitching from the stretch. He initiates his delivery with a tiny step with his left foot before starting his leg kick.
The goal is to be more compact, cut out excess movement and be able to repeat a smooth delivery, much like Gray, who finished third in the American League Cy Young race last season (Price was runner-up to winner Dallas Keuchel).
“I already have so many moving parts,” said the 6-foot-5 Bassitt, a strong candidate for the season-opening rotation. “I’m hoping it creates a lot less movement side to side, me falling back. It just keeps me in line to be a lot more consistent.”
The 27-year-old Bassitt began last season with Triple-A Nashville but went 1-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 18 games (13 starts) with Oakland, pitching much better than his win-loss record would suggest. He and his girlfriend grew to enjoy Nashville during his time with the Sounds, so they decided to make Nashville their home for the winter.
That opened the door for Bassitt and Gray to connect. They worked out five days a week, and Gray put Bassitt through the quick-pace weight workouts he likes to utilize.
“I like doing that in the offseason, just keep the heart rate up the whole time,” Gray said. “He’s really, really strong. For him it was more stabilization stuff and (working) smaller muscles and making sure he was more under control while he did stuff. Hopefully it’ll translate on the mound.”
Gray and Price are two of the most noteworthy former Vanderbilt stars who return there to train every winter. But other players who have no ties to the school also flock. Gray said the school is building an entire locker room space just for ex-Commodores who show up in the winter.
Bassitt said he can’t imagine a better place to train in the offseason, and now he hopes it pays off during the regular season.
“I’ve never felt more prepared.”