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Perrotto: Maybe Joey Bart Isn’t a Bust After All



Joey Bart, Pittsburgh Pirates

Coming to the Pittsburgh Pirates has seemingly resurrected Joey Bart’s career.

The 27-year-old catcher is hitting .304/.429/.739 with three home runs in seven games since the Pirates acquired him from San Francisco in a trade on April 2 after being designated for assignment by the Giants. He also has excelled as the personal catcher for left-hander Bailey Falter.

That is quite a turnaround for a player who was considered a bust with the Giants, failing to live up to being the second overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft from Georgia Tech.

However, Bart is not interested in being a redemption story. He only wants to play baseball.

“I’m just focused on competing. Just giving my best,” Bart said. “Looking at results is kind of a way to get you sidetracked. It’s just compete, go out there and have fun and try to do my part.”

However, general manager Ben Cherington likes the narrative of Bart’s bounce back with the Pirates even though it has come in a small sample size.

“He’s been a really positive impression,” Cherington said. “Obviously he’s contributed with the bat and has fit in really smoothly on the defensive side as far as the pitching staff and the game planning. No issues. He’s a smart guy and that comes across right away. He’s a talented guy. Every once in a while you need a fresh start and he’s gotten one for a little bit here and he’s having fun with it.”

The change of scenery has indeed been good for Bart. It has been a homecoming of sorts, too,

Bart grew up in Buford, Ga., an Atlanta suburb. However, his father Tommy was a standout athlete at Burrell High School in the late 1970s and Bart still has family in Western Pennsylvania.

“When you are in places, good, bad or indifferent, this is from personal experience, the change of scenery is good,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “It has an effect on people. The biggest component is when you go to the new place, for any of us, you come with a clean slate. That’s not saying there was any slate to be cleaned, but when you go somewhere new it’s a fresh outlook on how you are doing things and why you are doing them.”

In four seasons with the Giants, Bart batted just .219/.288/.335 with 11 home runs in 162 games. It also did not help Bart when Farhan Zaidi was hired to replace president of baseball operations Bobby Evans following the 2018 season.

The Giants selected Patrick Bailey in the first round of the 2020 draft and it quickly became clear that he was the catcher of the future. Bailey made his major-league debut last season.

Bart, though, has made a splash with his bat for the Pirates. Yet he cares more about defense.

Falter was hammered for six runs in four innings, including a grand slam by Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the first inning, in his season debut on March 31 against the Florida Marlins.

Bart was acquired two days later and has caught all four of Falter’s starts since. The left-hander is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in those games.

“That’s what keeps me up at night, thinking and going back and forth in my head, ‘Hey, I don’t want to throw this pitch and have this guy get clipped on something he probably shouldn’t throw,’” Bart said. “That’s just the game you battle while being back there in your head. ‘Is he on this, is he on that?’

“I’m just trying to get comfortable with people. It’s still pretty soon, but there’s still so much more. I haven’t caught, so it’s going to continue to be a work in progress as we continue to move forward, but I want them to know I have their back throughout it all and I could care less about anything other than what’s going on with me and you. I really enjoy watching these guys succeed on the bump. It’s what fires me up more than anything.”

Bart is succeeding, too, and is turning into quite a feel-good story.

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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