OAKLAND – Chris Bassitt arose at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in Nashville, likely without much need for an alarm clock.
The call came at 1 a.m. with news that the A’s were promoting him for an emergency start against Colorado, after Sonny Gray fell ill and was hospitalized.
A tremendous opportunity for Bassitt? No doubt.
A soothing sleep aid? Not exactly.
“You’re excited so your adrenaline’s going, getting up that early,” Bassitt said. “I didn’t get much sleep, but I can sleep tonight pretty good I’m sure.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's come up short, fall to Rockies]
Considering the circumstances, Bassitt fared quite well in Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rockies. He hardly had his best stuff, but willed his way through five innings of one-run ball. Because he was going on three days’ rest, manager Bob Melvin had him on a pitch count of about 85.
A team isn’t expecting a shutout in such a scenario, just a long enough outing to avoid having to burn through the entire bullpen, and hopefully still be within striking distance when the call to the ‘pen does come.
Bassitt, who came over from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal and was making his first start as an Athletic, accomplished that mission. And he did it on adrenaline. His flight left Nashville at about 7:30 a.m. and he arrived in Oakland between 1 and 2 p.m.
“I felt OK, but I didn’t have much feel tonight,” the lanky right-hander said. “I just tried to pound the zone as best I could and pretty much hope for the best. … It was kind of obvious my off-speed was not there at all tonight.”
Consider the scenario in the Nashville rotation. Bassitt is trying to prove his worth in his first year with the organization. So is lefty Sean Nolin, another young starter in his first year with the A’s organization, who was injured to start the season but now is pitching well in a starting role. And veterans Barry Zito and Brad Mills are also representing themselves well, giving the A’s options if they’re needed.
It’s a competitive situation at Triple-A, and when an opportunity arises for Bassitt – even one under not-so-favorable conditions like Tuesday’s – he needs to respond.
“I don’t know that we could have asked for much more,” Melvin said. “He threw strikes tonight, he got outs. He mixed his pitches well, good movement, different velocities on his two-seamer , four-seamer …”
Will Bassitt get another start? Gray spent Monday night in a hospital for what the A’s described as flu-like symptoms. Melvin didn’t speculate Tuesday on when Gray will re-enter the rotation. His immediate health is first and foremost. Gray’s next turn comes up Sunday against Seattle.
Bassitt was hard on himself for not commanding his curve Tuesday, and giving up a run-scoring single on a hanging breaking ball to Charlie Blackmon in the fifth. But, after making five relief appearances with the A’s that bridged April and May, he was sent down with the challenge of improving his command. He’d walked nine over 10 2/3 innings with the A’s.
On Tuesday, he didn’t issue a single free pass. He also showed great velocity at times, rearing back for a 97 mile-per-hour fastball to strike out Wilin Rosario to end the top of the fifth. Bassitt said he doesn’t get caught up in the competition to impress at Triple-A.
“For the most part, this is the best I’ve felt in a long long time,” he said. “What I’m working on is just pounding the zone with my fastball low, and everything else works from there. As long as I don’t walk any guys, I like my chances.”