When Buster Posey came out Friday afternoon to play a modified game of catch and keep his arm in shape, Joey Bart stood nearby, chatting with Posey as he threw balls to Chadwick Tromp and then waited for a trainer to hand him the return throw. There was a time a couple of years ago when it seemed a lock that Posey and Bart would one day make up the entire catching group at Oracle Park, but that day hasn't come yet.
Bart was the everyday catcher down the stretch last season, but only because Posey had opted out of playing. This year it's been Posey and Curt Casali behind the plate, with a little Tromp mixed in. If Bart is activated this weekend, it'll be because Posey is on the IL with a thumb contusion.
The Giants brought Bart to the ballpark on Friday afternoon but didn't activate him. He is likely to be added to the roster Saturday, though, getting the latest opportunity to prove that he has made strides at the plate. As he met with reporters in the dugout just before Friday's game, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he has seen encouraging signs from Bart, who has 150 plate appearances at Triple-A.
"The performance against right-handed pitching in particular has been really good. He's actually hit righties better than lefties, which is something that we've been looking for," Zaidi said. "The walk rate and strikeout rate don't jump off the page but I think the at-bat quality has been better. He's been really consistent and really good defensively, as well. I'm really happy with his progress."
Bart has a .981 OPS in Triple-A, with a .338 batting average, eight homers and nine doubles. He has struck out 42 times to 10 walks, but that's an improvement on last year's numbers (41 strikeouts, three walks in 111 plate appearances) at the big league level. All eight of Bart's homers have come against right-handed pitchers and he has a 1.023 OPS against them.
While Bart has consistently been one of the best players in the River Cats' lineup, he has just one big league at-bat this season. He joined the Giants on a San Diego-Denver trip right before the start of the minor league season in early May and got one pinch-hit appearance in a doubleheader. Tromp was added when Casali went on the IL last month and again this week when Posey was unavailable. Zaidi said the Giants continue to prioritize Bart's development at Triple-A.
"For a couple of these pockets where we needed another catcher we didn't want to disrupt the consistent playing time he was getting, but in this scenario with Buster down for the weekend we wanted to bring him in and evaluate maybe having him for the weekend," Zaidi said. "That might be a short-term thing depending on how Buster does, but we'll see when we get through the game today."