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The Giants tried to avoid it last July, but ultimately they felt they had no choice but to put Joey Bart in a tough spot.
Their former top pick had barely even played in Double-A when he was called up last August to take over as the everyday catcher for a team hoping to sneak into the playoffs. Those games would be a lot for any catcher to handle, and on top of the inherent stress, Bart had to work with a staff that was just about completely foreign to him, filled with veteran starters in San Francisco for the first time and young relievers trying to make a mark.
There were some predictable bumps in the road, and in the offseason the front office brought in Curt Casali as Buster Posey's backup, allowing Bart to start this year in Triple-A and get necessary reps. As camp kicked off Wednesday, Duane Kuiper joined the Giants Talk podcast to explain why he thought the game might have sped up on Bart last summer.
"I kind of equate it to the young quarterback in the NFL that starts right off the bat and it's not at all like it was in college. That's the way I thought it was for Joey Bart," Kuiper said. "Quarterback may be the most important position on the field, catcher may be the most important position on the field, and I do feel like he was overwhelmed. I said it a lot in September: 'I don't see a lot of joy in his face,' and I don't think he quite knew how to handle the fact that he was striking out a lot and having trouble with Johnny Cueto.
"I think all of that overwhelmed him, so I think he just needs to sit back, relax and be Joey Bart. If he can do that he really does have a great chance of being a terrific player."
Bart still is just 24 and remains the future of the franchise behind the plate. Even as the Giants started to look for more veteran depth, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi made it clear that the focus is on putting Bart in the best position to succeed with the Giants for years to come. He called that 2020 debut an "educational experience."
"We're super high on him going forward," Zaidi said in the offseason. "I think we saw a lot of why he was the second overall pick in the draft a couple years ago, but again, everything we do is going to be about setting him up for success in the long term."