OAKLAND -- It's been almost three years since Chris Bassitt had Tommy John surgery. Although he did return to the majors in 2018, the A's right-hander never quite felt fully healthy.
"To say that this is the best I've felt would be an understatement," Bassitt said Monday night, after he threw five scoreless innings in his season debut, a 6-1 A's win over the Texas Rangers. "My [velocity] is back, everything is kind of back. To be honest with you, tonight I was not really built up, and conditioning-wise wasn't that great, but I mean, yeah, I'm back."
The 30-year-old struggled a bit with his control at the Coliseum, issuing four walks, but he allowed just two hits and struck out seven.
"Effectively wild, I guess," Bassitt said, with a laugh. "It was kind of just fill the zone up with everything and hope for the best."
A's manager Bob Melvin concurred with that assessment.
"He can be a little bit on the effectively wild side, where he walks a couple of guys, he hits a guy, he goes 3-0 on you, and comes back and strikes you out looking," Melvin said. "It's really tough to figure out where he's going to throw the ball. One's moving, one's cutting, [he has] a real slow curveball. He can kind of slow you down and speed you up.
"He's got a lot of movement, and as the game progressed, he got more and more confidence."
Bassitt hoped to begin the year in the A's rotation, but he suffered a bruised shin when he was struck by a batted ball during one of Oakland's exhibition games in Japan. He recorded an ERA of 3.27, with 16 strikeouts in 11 innings, in three minor-league starts this season.
Now, Bassitt has his first major-league win of the 2019 season. He heaped praise on catcher Josh Phegley for guiding him through Monday's outing and helping him overcome his erratic control.
"It's definitely not fun to walk that many guys because you put yourself in awkward situations a lot," Bassitt said. "But I give a lot of credit to Phegley, just because I don't think I shook one time. Not only that, it was just more so in between innings talking to him and [him] saying, 'Listen, this is what we're going to do. Trust it and let's go get 'em.' "
Despite keeping the Rangers off the scoreboard, Bassitt was frustrated he couldn't pitch deeper into the game to spare Oakland's bullpen. But Melvin was more than content with the outing.
"He gave us what we needed," the manager said. "He came out with a zero on the board and the lead. That's about all we could ask from him today. ...
"It was a great start for him. I know he was excited about his start and wanted to get off to a good start, and he absolutely did. So I know next time out, he'll have a lot of confidence."