Joey Bart's call-up to the Giants isn't likely to last long. But in making his first appearance of the season in Saturday's 10-4 win over the Washington Nationals, he showed he's much closer to being a permanent big-league player than he was a year ago.
Bart was thrust into action last season after Buster Posey opted out due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and hindsight being 20/20, it probably was too much, too soon for San Francisco's No. 2 prospect. He struggled at the plate, posting a .233/.288/.320 slash line with 41 strikeouts in 103 at-bats. Had it been possible for him to get at-bats in the minors, the Giants surely would have given him that opportunity, but they could only work within the reality of the situation.
That situation, of course, is much different now, as there is a minor-league season this year. Prior to joining the Giants' taxi squad on Friday, Bart had spent all season with the Sacramento Rivercats in Triple-A, where he impressed Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. In 35 games with the Rivercats, Bart posted a .338 batting average with eight home runs and 33 RBI.
That success gave the Giants the confidence to call Bart up to the majors as a temporary replacement for Posey, who was placed on the 10-day IL. He made his first start of the season on Saturday, and immediately redeemed them for that decision.
Bart went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored Saturday, notching his hits in his first two at-bats. Defensively, he displayed a good rapport with starter Anthony DeSclafani, who allowed only three hits across six shutout innings with six strikeouts. The all-around performance was evidence that he has improved since his last time in the bigs.
"It was an improvement on what we've seen in the past," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said of Bart after the win. "It was a better version of Joey. I thought he did a really nice job calling the game and working with DeSclafani. I thought he did a nice job framing, receiving. And then, I thought his at-bats were good quality.
"Even the last at-bat against [Nationals reliever Jefry] Rodgriguez, even though he struck out in that at-bat, what I thought was interesting was the hitters in front of him, it was just ball after ball, and so I think he easily could have gone up there and been over-aggressive. I don't think he was. I think he took the right approach at the plate. He saw a breaking ball for a strike and a painted fastball, but I felt like he had the right patient approach at the plate in that at-bat. I think, overall, it was a good day for Joey."
Bart, too, was pleased with how season debut went.
"It was fun," he told reporters via videoconference. "I was really trying to lock in with DeSclafani and get him on his game and try to get us on the same page. That went pretty well, and anything else that happened at the plate was just extra. I'm glad I found a few holes there and was able to get on base a few times."
Though he got his first cup of coffee in the majors last season, Saturday was an entirely new experience for Bart, and he took it all in.
"Today, I was a little giddy, first one here at the park," he added. "It seemed like it took five hours -- just seemed like the game lasted so long. But it was a lot of fun, and it's a whole lot more fun playing with Giants fans here."
Bart might not make many more appearances at Oracle Park this season, but it doesn't seem like it'll be that much longer until that becomes his permanent home crowd.