The Joey Bart Era started last season at Oracle Park, and then a few months later, the Giants decided to make Sacramento the young catcher's initial 2021 home.
With the addition of Curt Casali as Buster Posey's backup, the Giants locked their two catchers into place before camp even started and made it clear that Bart would get a lot of time in Triple-A. The organization's No. 2 prospect has taken all that in stride, continuing to show why he's so highly thought of.
Bart went the opposite way Wednesday for his second homer of the spring and has 10 hits in 22 at-bats. A year after he posted a 1.254 OPS in the Cactus League to firmly put himself in position for a promotion, Bart is at 1.227 in 12 appearances.
It's a small sample, but it matches the work Bart has done in the bullpens and during workouts. The Giants asked him to put an emphasis on his work with pitchers and manager Gabe Kapler said he's pleased with the progress.
"He has gotten hits and had a productive camp, and I also think he has gone about his business in the right way and developed more of a rapport, particularly with younger pitchers," Kapler said. "He put his head down and worked really hard this camp and I'm proud of the work that he has done more recently, as well."
The adjustments defensively can be subtle. Kapler said he watches body cues that Bart gives to pitchers during bullpen sessions, and he often walks over and stands in to listen when the catcher and pitcher meet afterward to discuss what worked and didn't.
"It's really impressive to hear Joey's feedback," he said. "It's really responsive to some of the things that our pitching coaches are asking for."
The main adjustment Bart needs to make is easier to spot. He struck out 41 times and walked just three times as a rookie, which wouldn't fly in any organization but especially not one in which the baseball operations department views K/BB ratio as one of the best ways to determine when a young player is ready for the next level.
Bart has six strikeouts and two walks this spring, which is too small a sample to tell you anything, but he has appeared to be more comfortable laying off pitches he can't drive. He said earlier this spring that his goal is to keep from trying to "do too much" every time up.
"When you face really good pitching you often think, 'I've got to be as good or better as this guy,' and that's not how it goes," he said. "I figured that out. I think I've just got to be myself and work on my game plan every day, and that's what I've been doing. Build on the steps and keep going, and then once you get in that game and that setting, it's all about competing and turning the lights on and getting going."
The next step will be an early trip to Sacramento. Bart was going to start there anyway, but with teams cleared to hold scrimmages at their alternate sites, the Giants plan to send most of their prospects there for at least the start of April. Bart can get settled in before the minor league season starts in May, when he can begin a bid to hit his way back to the big leagues.
"We'll probably be aggressive early in sending guys who are in big league camp to the alternate site to start with," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. "One big advantage we have this year is that we can kind of add and remove guys to the alternate site with flexibility, which we did not have last year. For guys that have kind of been ramped up, played in games, to go back to square one with minor league camp starting (April 1) without a lot of clarity and certainty on playing minor league scrimmages -- we may want to keep them going."