MESA, Ariz. -– Commissioner Rob Manfred would surely approve of Chris Bassitt’s approach to pitching.
The A’s right-hander works at a brisk pace that goes hand-in-hand with Major League Baseball’s effort to play quicker games, not that Bassitt does so for the sake of MLB rules.
He officially entered the battle for a rotation spot with two shutout innings in Saturday’s 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Bassitt allowed just a two-out single to Efren Navarro in the second, and Navarro was erased when Josh Phegley threw him out on a steal attempt. Just like that, Bassitt’s afternoon of work was done. He struck out two and didn’t walk anyone.
“I was slow when I first came up, out of the bullpen,” Bassitt said. “I worked at a lot slower pace. But as a starter, no one wants to sit out there 3 ½ hours. So I work a lot faster.”
Manager Bob Melvin was impressed with what he saw from the 6-foot-5 right-hander.
“He was down in the zone, the ball was moving all over the place,” Melvin said. “He’s got the type of sinker, that because of his height, if he’s down in the zone, it’s tough to get in the air, period.”
One of four players the A’s acquired in December from the White Sox for Jeff Samardzija, Bassitt got his first big league call-up last season, making six appearances (five starts) for Chicago and going 1-1 with a 3.94 ERA.
He’s the latest in a conga line of pitchers to hold their first audition to make Oakland’s rotation. Jesse Chavez started Wednesday, followed by Barry Zito on Thursday and then Kendall Graveman and Bassitt. Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Hahn, two more candidates, will take the ball Sunday and Monday against the White Sox and Rangers, respectively. There are three rotation spots open behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir.
With that kind of competition, Bassitt, 26, said he couldn’t help but feel some adrenaline flowing when he took the mound.
“I haven’t had that in a long time,” he said. “It was nerve-racking, exciting -– whatever you wanna call it. You want to put your best foot forward. Nobody knows you yet. It’s like, ‘Sure he can throw bullpens and what not.’ But this is when it really starts counting.”
FLASHING LEATHER: For the second day in a row, Phegley threw out a would-be base stealer. Navarro broke for second base in the top of the second and Phegley delivered a laser right to the bag.
“(Catching instructor) Marcus (Jensen) has done some work with him to free up his hands,” Melvin said. “He looks really smooth.”
STOCK RISING: With the news that right fielder Josh Reddick will be shut down for the next two weeks with a strained oblique, non-roster outfielder Jason Pridie is one player who stands to get more playing time in his absence. Melvin mentioned several names that could see more outfield time, but the advantage with Pridie is he can play all three outfield spots.
FAMILIAR FACE: Ryan Doolittle, the younger brother of A’s closer Sean Doolittle, entered in relief for Oakland in the eighth inning. He allowed an RBI single but also registered two strikeouts. Ryan, 26, split last season between Single-A Stockton and Double-A Midland.
QUOTABLE: “I may have to give him an ‘O-H’ before I leave.” – Bassitt, an Ohio State fan, joking that he was going to do a Buckeye cheer in the presence of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, who visited A’s camp.
ODDS AND ENDS: Relievers Eric O’Flaherty and Ryan Cook each made their exhibition debuts. O’Flaherty gave up an unearned run in one inning of work. Cook gave up a run on three hits, including a perfectly executed hit-and-run single by Navarro. … Coco Crisp made his second start in left field and went 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly at the plate. … Tyler Ladendorf entered the game in left field and went 2-for-2 with two RBI, including a game-tying triple in the ninth. … The A’s are 4-0-1, making them undefeated after five spring games for the first time since at least 1986, as far back as spring training results are available.