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Calm Bart looks right at home in MLB debut with Giants

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It's been nine years since Brandon Belt made his MLB debut as a first baseman who tore through the minors, and you could argue that the Giants haven't had a hitter with his prospect pedigree reach the big leagues until Joey Bart walked through the center field gate Thursday afternoon. 

Belt was a top 25 prospect when he made the club out of spring training. Years later, he knew exactly what to say to another guy with a similar ranking who was about to take a big league field for the first time. 

"He told him not to mess it up," Brandon Crawford revealed.

Bart smiled after the 10-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels as he recounted the moment. He said several of his old coaches reached out before the game with the same tongue-in-cheek message. All of them, of course, knew they had nothing to worry about. 

Bart was just 1-for-4 in his big league debut, and there weren't any moments that particularly stood out defensively. He was simply a calming presence back there, both for starter Kevin Gausman and a bullpen that once again flirted with disaster. 

Above all, that's what stood out about Joey Bart's debut. If you ignored all the attention, the fact that his double was thrown into the dugout to be enclosed in a glass case, and that Mike Trout congratulated him when he came up to the plate, Bart looked very much like a player in his 10th big league season, not his first. 

 

"It doesn't feel especially tense in any part of his game," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Buster Posey is in a class of his own -- he's a Hall of Fame catcher and also very, very calm. I'm not saying Joey is going to be Buster, but a lot of the calmness and relaxed nature that Buster brings to the ballpark every day, Joey kind of brings some of that as well."

Gausman said he didn't sense any nerves from his catcher. Crawford, who hit his 100th career homer, said the rookie seemed like "normal, laid back Joey." Bart admitted that he didn't really feel nerves. 

"I was just really excited inside," Bart said. "I was really just kind of driven and really tried to lock in my gameplan with Kevin and put together something good for him. Obviously he showed that. I just wanted to be on top of things for him. The starters every day are the most important thing for me. Getting him locked into the game, it felt good. I had a lot of fun."

You couldn't ask for better perspective from a 23-year-old catcher, and that's exactly why the Giants took Bart No. 2 overall and have been so high on him for the subsequent two years. They've had a calm leader behind the plate for a decade and believe they now have another one, and like Posey, Bart should be a game-changer at the plate. 

Bart had just one hit, but it made a mark. At 109.5 mph, it was the fourth hardest-hit ball by a Giant this year. Bart had gone hitless in his first three plate appearances, getting hit on the foot once. 

"I wasn't really stressed about getting a hit," Bart said.

[RELATED: Prior experience helped Bart stay calm waiting for call up]

He didn't really have to stress. The Giants came in averaging more than six runs a game at home this season and scored eight in the first three innings Thursday. That meant Bart could simply focus on guiding the staff, and Gausman, who worked with him just a couple of times over the two camps, liked what he saw. 

"Some catchers focus so much on being such a good low-ball catcher that some guys have a hard time catching me," said Gausman, who works up in the zone with his fastball. "With him being such a big body, he doesn't really have to do much and he sets a good, high target. That was the biggest thing with him, was just making sure when we go up there to just give me a higher target, stand up a little straight, and I thought he did a great job tonight."