SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants put Joey Bart's locker a few feet away from Buster Posey's in their new clubhouse. Their young hitting coaches surrounded the cage when Bart took batting practice Wednesday, and a couple went over with words of encouragement once he was done depositing baseballs onto the berm in right-center. Despite an obvious need at backup catcher, the plan remains for Bart to start the year in Triple-A and get more reps.
A top prospect -- and Bart is one of the best in the game -- is watched closely every step of the way and has every part of his development plan mapped out. But sometimes you also need to be lucky, or in Bart's case, simply avoid getting unlucky.
Before the first Giants workout of the spring, Bart said he's excited for what's ahead, eager to learn and confident Gabe Kapler has the organization headed in the right direction. He should be a big part of that future -- if opposing pitchers can just stop hitting the hands that can do so much damage to fastballs.
Bart missed six weeks in Advanced A-ball early last season when he was hit by an inside pitch and fractured the second metacarpal in his left hand. His demolition of the Arizona Fall League was halted months later when another inside pitch fractured his right thumb.
Bart spent part of his first full day in camp talking about those experiences, and the sobering knowledge that there's little he can do to prevent it from happening again. There's only so much protection a hitter can wear on his hands while staying able to swing freely.
"You're going to get hit again," Bart said. "Hopefully I don't get hit on the hand again, but I can't control that obviously."
There are ways you can try to limit risk. The Giants over the years have kept veterans out of some spring games that were going to be heavy on low-minors pitching. Command gets better at the upper levels of the minors, and in theory, Bart should be at less risk in Triple-A and, possibly as soon as this summer, the big leagues.
But the Arizona Fall League is full of hard-throwing prospects who don't quite know where the ball is going, and that's a dangerous combination when you're told to throw inside.
In that final AFL game, Bart already had been hit once and brushed back twice. He was hit on the hand in his third plate appearance and the bench exploded. Pitching coach Steve Kline, who will work in Double-A for the Giants this season, had to be held back as he yelled at the young Pirates prospect who drilled Bart. Kline said Wednesday that he was so upset because the Pirates teach their pitchers to throw hard and in at every level and it often leads to injuries for other young players.
"Everybody says pitch in, but you have to know how to pitch in so you can get the guy out away," Kline said. "Guys just throw in and in and in."
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Bart's Scorpions teammates later threw at a member of the other team and the sides exchanged words when the game was over. Bart said he knew right away that his season was over after another bad break.
"Especially in the Fall League I saw a lot more pitches inside," Bart said. "I think that's just because, from what I hear, that's kind of what the Pirates, their thing is. That's what my teammates told me, that when they faced them in Double-A that's all they did and they just hit people left and right and their philosophy is hard in. It's great, it's definitely hard to hit, but if you can't do it right it obviously puts it in a different ballgame. They were throwing in there hard, and very uncompetitive pitches. The one that hit me was going to hit me in the head if I didn't somehow get out of the way."
Bart is used to taking a beating between the lines. He is a catcher, after all. But last year's experience doesn't seem to have lingered mentally or physically at all. He put on a show in BP in the afternoon, showing the opposite-field strength that is his hallmark. Bart said his plan at the plate hasn't changed.
"Just go in the box looking for my pitch to hit," he said, "And try to get out of the way."