SAN FRANCISCO -- Five hours before the first pitch on Friday night, Patrick Bailey walked out onto the outfield grass at Oracle Park and took a long look around. Then he stepped into the batter's box, visualizing what his debut would be like, first from the right side and then from the left.
As Bailey soaked it all in, Casey Schmitt was conducting an interview in the Giants dugout. Schmitt, the 2020 second-rounder, has been one of the organization's best stories in years, and he now is joined by that draft's first-round pick.
Bailey was called up from Triple-A on Friday morning, taking the roster spot vacated by Joey Bart, who has a left groin strain. The switch-hitting catcher arrived at Oracle Park with reliever Ryan Walker, although Bailey will have to wait a day for his first start. He's scheduled to catch Logan Webb on Saturday afternoon.
"It's pretty cool," Bailey said, smiling. "Pretty cool. Hopefully, I just go out there and relax and do my thing and try to get the best out of him."
The 23-year-old reached the big leagues less than three years after he was taken 13th overall in the draft, but it was a circuitous route to Oracle Park. His first professional season was wiped out by the pandemic, although the Giants thought so highly of him that they included him on a limited roster for their summer camp at Oracle Park and sent him to the alternate site in Sacramento to get important reps while a 60-game season was happening a short drive away.
Bailey hit .322 the next season in San Jose and quickly earned a promotion to High-A, but his overall numbers didn't stand out over parts of two seasons in Eugene. If you looked deeper, though, you saw someone racing to the big leagues.
Bailey had a .761 OPS overall last season, but it was .851 as a left-handed hitter and .452 from the right side. A natural righty, he viewed the splits as being in part because of a lack of opportunity -- he had just 61 at-bats against lefties last year -- and made adjustments this spring to his swing and approach. The Giants sent Bailey off to Double-A with a plan to spend more time on his right-handed swing during batting practice since he won't get as many opportunities in games.
While Bailey dropped on prospect lists, the Giants' internal evaluations remained strong. They saw a hitter who could form the strong side of a platoon at the big league level because of his ability to hit right-handed pitching, as well as a gifted defender.
Bailey won a minor league Gold Glove Award last season and key members of the staff felt he was the best defensive catcher in camp this spring. In talking about the move, Gabe Kapler noted that Bailey has spent three springs plus that summer session learning the big league staff, and added that -- like with Schmitt -- the advanced glove would form a solid floor.
"He's very well-equipped to catch at the Major League level right now, to catch and throw," Kapler said. "His calling card in college was his defensive ability. Now, he hit from both sides of the plate at the college level. In the minor leagues, he's been better from the left side of the plate, but he has maintained the ability to catch, throw, block, frame and do all of those things at a high level.
"He has continued to earn the respect and, in some ways, the admiration of our coaching staff, but also the minor league staff, as well, and (farm director) Kyle Haines, as well. We're all pretty aligned that Pat is going to be a good defensive addition to our group and a good makeup addition to our group."
Kapler said Bailey is not simply a short-term fill-in for Bart, saying that the staff thinks "he's ready to help us win baseball games." That's what he said initially about Schmitt, too, and in a short time, it became clear that the Giants needed him in the lineup as often as possible.
"What you saw with Casey is what happens when it goes well," Kapler said. "Sometimes I think with prospects you're concerned about what might not go so well, so you're wanting to make sure that that player is ready and has as much experience as you'd like him to get before you introduce him at the Major League level.
"But when you see the upside and it's just so recent, you start to dream on what could be if Pat was to get off to a really good start and help us win baseball games right away and what that could mean for our team. I think it could mean a lot."
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For as fast as Schmitt moved, Bailey's ascent this season has been even more meteoric. He reached the big leagues with just 28 total games of experience in Double-A and Triple-A, but the Giants felt in March that he was ready to catch in big league games.
Because the staff was trying to get a long look at Roberto Perez and Blake Sabol, Bailey didn't get many reps in the spring, but he stood out. He has transformed his body, and team officials have seen a different mentality out of Bailey since his daughter, Briella, was born last September.
On Friday morning, the proud father drove from Reno to Sacramento with Briella and his wife, Leigha, picking up some of their stuff and then continuing on to Oracle Park. He walked into the ballpark for the first time since 2020, when everyone was masked and the restrictions were so tight that Bailey never even got to visit the home clubhouse.
"My motto this year has just been being where my feet are and just trying to compete wherever that is," he said. "I'm pretty happy it's right here, right now."