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In-person Report: Chris Bassitt rehab start

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA — Oakland A’s starter Chris Bassitt is on the comeback trail a year removed from Tommy John surgery. On Saturday, he made his fifth rehab appearance of the season. We take a look at how he fared and what it means for his comeback.

Chris Bassitt / Photo by Chris Lockard
Chris Bassitt is returning from Tommy John surgery. / Photo by Chris Lockard

On Saturday, May 20, Chris Bassitt made his fifth rehab appearance of the season. The Oakland A’s right-handed starter had Tommy John surgery one year ago. He made his regular season debut with the High-A Stockton Ports on April 29. After seven scoreless innings in the California League, Bassitt continued his rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville. Since then, he has made three appearances, with mixed results.

In his first outing, Bassitt allowed four runs on five hits in four innings against Triple-A El Paso. He walked four in the outing and struck-out six. On May 15, Bassitt fared better, allowing no earned runs on three hits and two walks in five innings. He struck-out three and picked up the win against Fresno.

On Saturday, Bassitt took the mound against Sacramento. His final line wasn’t pretty – seven runs allowed on seven hits, two walks and three hit-by-pitches. Six of the seven runs he gave up came on homeruns.

Bassitt didn’t allow a run in the first three innings of his outing against the River Cats. His velocity sat 87-89 for most of the first inning, although he did touch 90 against the final batter of the frame. All three batters Bassitt faced in the first had significant major league time – infielder Kelby Tomlinson and rehabbing Giants’ infielders Conor Gillaspie and Aaron Hill. Bassitt threw almost exclusively fastballs in the first inning. He fell behind each of the first two hitters but was able to induce weak contact in hitter’s counts.

In the second inning, Bassitt had a little more zip on his fastball, touching 91. He also mixed in a few more off-speed pitches, including a 72 and a 69 MPH breaking ball. He allowed a one-out hit to Austin Slater, but he faced the minimum when Ryan Lavarnway threw out Slater attempting to steal.

In Bassitt’s third inning, he showed significantly more velocity. His fastball sat 90-91 and he registered several 93s. He also threw several sliders, but he had trouble commanding the pitch. Bassitt allowed a one-out line-drive single and a two-out walk, but got out of the inning with two groundouts and a pop-out.

In the fourth inning, Bassitt really began to labor. He hit the first batter of the inning and his pace slowed considerably. After hitting Hill with a 3-0 pitch, Bassitt retired Ryder Jones on a foul pop-out before allowing a two-run homerun to Slater on an 83 MPH slider that didn’t have much movement. Bassitt recovered to retire Jae-Gyun Hwang on a soft roller to third for the second out. After allowing a single, Bassitt got his first – and only – strike-out of the night in a three-pitch at-bat against Juniel Querecuto. Querecuto took a called strike-three on a 79 MPH breaking ball on the corner.

Bassitt was scheduled to go 85-90 pitches, so he remained in the game in the fifth inning even though he appeared to be wavering in the fourth. His command quickly escaped him in the fifth, as he hit Wynton Bernard on an 0-2 fastball. After retiring Tomlinson on a soft line-out to right, Bassitt allowed a sharp line-drive single to Gillaspie. He then hit Hill with a 2-0 fastball to load the bases. Bassitt then fell behind Jones 1-0 before grooving an 89 MPH fastball that Jones took out to deep right-center for a grandslam.

Still short of his pitch count, Bassitt faced one more batter and allowed a Slater double on a 2-1 off-speed pitch before departing. That run would eventually come around to score. Bassitt finished the game with 87 pitches, 51 strikes.

In the final inning, Bassitt’s velocity was down from his best inning (the third). He sat 87-89, mixing in a few 90 MPH offerings. Bassitt appeared to be aiming his pitches at times, especially his off-speed offerings. The River Cats were often behind on Bassitt’s pitches during the first three innings, but they clearly saw him better in their second and third at-bats against him and there was a lot more hard contact.

During the 2015 season, Bassitt generally sat 93 MPH with his fastball and he touched 96. He clearly isn’t at that point in his return from the Tommy John surgery yet, although the fact that he did register some 93 MPH pitches before he tired is a good sign. His change-up and curveball were both thrown at roughly the velocities he threw them at in 2015. He threw a couple of nice curveballs but didn’t work too many of them in. Bassitt’s slider was down a couple of ticks from his 2015 velocity and he hung a few. As he tired, he looked like he was aiming his pitches rather than letting them go freely.

Bassitt’s delivery has always been high-effort, and that hasn’t changed in his return from surgery. He still gets plenty of deception when he is pitching, but he can also lose his release point on occasion.

Only 12 months out from surgery, Bassitt’s struggles are to be expected. That he is able to throw all of his pitches at this point is a good sign and that his velocity at least ticked 93 is also a solid indication that he should regain his pre-surgery stuff once he is back at full strength. He isn’t major-league ready right now, but with Daniel Mengden and Sonny Gray healthy again and Jharel Cotton shows signs of improvement already in Triple-A, the A’s aren’t in a position where they will need to rush him.

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