Athletics

Tyler Soderstrom credits father, ex-Giant, for help becoming A's top pick

Tyler Soderstrom credits father, ex-Giant, for help becoming A's top pick

Tyler Soderstrom played five games his senior season at Turlock High before baseball shut down at every level due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Gyms were closed. Local parks largely were unavailable during the spring.

The star catcher and A’s 2020 first-round draft pick still had unlimited access to an optimal training complex, with the Backyard Sports Academy a few seconds from his house.

“I’m actually pretty lucky that my dad has a sports facility a minute down the road from where I live, with full batting cages and a baseball field,” Soderstrom said Wednesday. “That’s where I spend my downtime. I’m always down there grinding and getting better every day.”

That’s one of the many benefits of being Steve Soderstrom’s son, a fact that’s not lost on his youngest boy. Steve Soderstrom was the Giants’ first-round pick in 1993, and the right-handed pitcher who spent most of his career in the minors with a brief stint in the big leagues has played a big role in Tyler’s baseball development.

The phenom with the powerful bat and an offensive approach beyond his years has turned hard work, great talent and sage advice into the No. 26 overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft. Steve and Tyler become just the 10th father-son duo to be selected in the first round.

The 2019-20 Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year was considered a steal by many when the A’s took him, armed with an excellent combination of size, skill and upside.

Tyler was quick to credit his father for refining his talents and getting him ready for this draft.

“My dad has been there for me since Day 1,” Tyler Soderstrom said. “He does anything I ask of him and is there for any question I need answered, and he has been that way since I started playing baseball. He helps me with the mental part of the game. I’m super blessed to have him as my father.”

Steve and Tyler both spoke with the A’s during the pre-draft process via a Zoom video conference call. Having his dad as a sounding board about the experience of being a high draft pick and the expectations that come with it, plus the grind of the minor-league experience, should be invaluable as he progresses through the A’s system.

Having a father who was a pitcher can be key for a catcher because they can talk strategy on both ends. That’s something Tyler took full advantage of growing up.

“It has helped me a lot,” Soderstrom said. “We have talked about game calling and game management. We have talked about pitch selection and pitch sequences and what to do in different counts. He has really helped that part of my game, but has helped a ton with my hitting, too.”

[RELATED: A's thrilled to draft Tyler Soderstrom, plan to keep him at catcher]

It also might help in dealing with the media. As someone who grew up roughly hours east of the Bay Area, Tyler Soderstrom was asked if he grew up a fan of the Giants or A’s. The answer was predictable considering his father’s playing career, but the 18-year old still answered it perfectly.

“I didn’t really grow up with either team,” Soderstrom said. “I just enjoy watching baseball. I leaned toward the Giants because my dad played for them but now that the A’s have selected me, it’s pretty easy for me to jump ship."

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

Chris Bassitt’s stellar outing in the A's 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday almost wasn’t. But we’ll let the first inning be just a memory.

“I told myself after the first inning, I’m like ‘All right, you may be a little wild today, but don’t walk guys, make them earn everything,’ and it obviously smoothed itself out,” Bassitt told reporters in the postgame interview. 

Bassitt hit J.P. Crawford in the first with a curveball. After Dylan Moore hit into a fielder's choice and stole second, he came around to score on a single by Daniel Vogelbach.

Bassitt's performance more than smoothed itself out, and he had the help of rookie catcher Austin Allen in the process. In 5 2/3 innings, Bassitt allowed just one earned run, three hits and struck out seven. 

“Austin kind of guided me through the first inning and [got] going from there,” Bassitt said. “After the second inning, I just kind of felt myself out and I was kind of locked in from there on out." 

Allen came to the A's an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for Jurickson Profar. And while he’s the new guy, Allen was able to form a bond with Bassitt quicker than usual. 

“Me and Austin spent a lot of time together over the last -- I would say two, three weeks just getting to know one another, talking about what I like, what I don’t like,” Bassitt said. “Obviously, a new catcher coming in, he’s got to learn basically me -- he’s got to learn who I am mentally, who I am physically, what I can and can’t do.

"I think we’re still learning each other, but at the same time, I think a lot more ahead of what we should be just because, again -- me and [Sean Murphy] are on the same page, and I think Austin’s done a great job of learning who I am.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

The fifth inning came fast, but before Bassitt was pulled, he wanted to make it count against Mariners rookie outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is hitting .425 with three home runs this season. 

Bassitt glanced over to the bullpen to see A’s reliever T.J. McFarland warming up, knowing Vogelbach was about to come to the plate. He had an internal message for Lewis. 

“All right, if you’re going to hit me, you’re going to hit my best pitch, so uh … here we go,” Bassitt explained. “So yeah, I knew that was my last batter.”

[RELATED: Luzardo to make first big-league start next week]

Bassitt struck Lewis out.

And Bassitt continues to improve.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Bassitt was fantastic and “seems to get better every time out.”

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 3-2 win over Mariners

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 3-2 win over Mariners

BOX SCORE

Coming off an extra-innings win over the Mariners the night before, the A's backed that up with another 3-2 victory in Seattle on Sunday.

The A's bats were quiet until Ramón Laureano crushed a three-run home run in the top of the fifth to give Oakland a 3-1 lead. Matt Chapman also had his first hit of the series with a line-drive single to left field in the eighth.

On the mound opposing the A's was a familiar face in Kendall Graveman, whose velocity looked stellar with a four-seam fastball he worked on during quarantine. 

Here’s what you might have missed during Sunday’s game:

Still depending on homers?

Just a couple days ago, Laureano told reporters that those on the outside might be worried about the team’s offensive production, but that is definitely not the case for him. His fifth-inning homer was his second of the young season. 

This exit velocity on that homer actually clocked in at only 98.5 mph which is low for homers, but that’s Laureano for you.

On Saturday night, Chad Pinder hit a home run to tie the game which ultimately would help the A's pull out the win, but are these homers being depended on too much?

They’re also not all base-clearing home runs … minus, of course, Matt Olson’s walk-off slam on Opening Day, but that’s the consensus around the league it appears. This season, the A’s have left 12.62 runners on base per game, which believe it or not, isn’t even the top eight worst in the league, so it could be a blanketed situation.

Perhaps this homer dependability is a thing, but it doesn’t appear the team minds at the moment.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bassitt puts on a show

It was smooth sailing for Chris Bassitt, who made it through to 5 2/3 innings and threw 83 pitches. He allowed just one earned run on three hits, and struck out seven batters.

His flyball percentage has dropped drastically this season and that showed Sunday. Bassitt's curveball has lacked velocity, but is massive to add to his repertoire.

Heading into the season, Bassitt could have been pitched out of the rotation or the bullpen. With the delay of Jesus Luzardo’s arrival after he tested positive for coronavirus, and the setback from A.J. Puk, Bassitt easily worked his way into the starting rotation.

Last season, however, he made a great case for himself coming out of the bullpen when Blake Treinen struggled with a back injury.

"Hey, we know you."

Graveman, the former Opening Day starter for the A's, was impressive through the first four innings. Aside from his fastball, he also had a pretty impressive slider that he threw to Marcus Semien on a 3-0 count.

Gravemen spent four seasons with the A’s from 2015-18. He missed most of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The 29-year-old went 4 2/3 innings and allowed three hits and two earned runs. Graveman struck out three and walked two A's batters. Graveman was originally supposed to be a big part of the A’s rotation in 2018, but that ultimately wasn’t the case.

[RELATED: Grossman details adjustment that changed his season]

It's been two years since Graveman pitched in the big leagues, and after a pitstop with the Chicago Cubs, he's found a new home in Seattle. So, despite him no longer wearing green and gold, it was good to see Graveman healthy and back on the mound again.