SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Chris Bassitt tried to dodge a bullet Monday but couldn’t pull it off.
A liner off the bat of Miguel Olivo nailed the A’s right-hander flush in the left hamstring in the second inning at Scottsdale Stadium. Bassitt hobbled around in obvious pain and was quickly visited by A’s manager Bob Melvin and trainers.
He shook it off, stayed in the game and impressed Melvin not only with his toughness, but his work on the mound in a 6-4 victory over the Giants. The right-hander pitched into the sixth inning, giving up four runs but looking much more in control than his previous outing Wednesday, when he lost all command of the strike zone in a minor league game.
Melvin was happy to see the righty bounce back – and happy to see him avoid serious injury on the comebacker. In a split-squad game Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium, A’s lefty Felix Doubront had a similar scare, getting tagged by a liner in the right knee.
“He’s a tough guy,” Melvin said of Bassitt. “He didn’t even want me out there.”
Bassitt suffered a contusion on his hamstring, but that didn’t put a damper on what’s been a solid spring for the lanky right-hander. Oakland’s rotation entered the day with the fourth highest spring ERA in the American League at 6.46. The four runs off Bassitt on Monday were the first he’s allowed in three Cactus League outings.
Melvin and his staff were hoping to see Bassitt take command of a rotation spot this spring, and to this point he’s done that. As the rotation currently unfolds, Bassitt would be lined up to start the third game of the regular season behind Sonny Gray and Rich Hill, though the A’s have some wiggle room to adjust.
Boosted by a productive offseason spent training with Gray, along with some simplified mechanics, Bassitt said he feels more in control on the mound than in 2015, his first season with the A’s.
“I feel way ahead of (where) I used to be,” Bassitt said. “I feel great going into the season.”
He’s allowed four earned runs over 10 1/3 innings, with eight strikeouts and three walks.
On Monday he matched up against Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija, the man the A’s traded to the White Sox in December 2014 in exchange for Bassitt and three others. The A’s tagged Samardzija for six runs over six innings, including home runs from third baseman Matt Chapman and second baseman Chris Coghlan.
PROSPECT WATCH: Chapman seems to find a way to impact the game every time he touches the field. On Sunday, he entered as a mid-game substitute and banged an opposite-field double. In his second trip to the plate Monday, he launched a two-run shot to left off Samardzija. He’s hitting .267 and is tied for the team lead with four homers. He’s second in RBI with nine, one behind Danny Valencia.
“I keep telling myself he’s not on the roster yet,” Bassitt said. “I mean, he is unbelievable. Honestly, you see him in practice, in the game. His defense is there, his offense is there. His arm’s a cannon …”
Considering Chapman, 22, spent last year at Single-A Stockton (and played in just 80 games because of two DL stints), don’t look for him to make the leap all the way to the A’s Opening Night roster. But it’s very possible he sticks with the big club through the Bay Bridge exhibition series. Asked if that was a possibility Monday morning, Melvin just smiled and said:
NOTEWORTHY: Closer Sean Doolittle, who hasn’t pitched in more than a week because of a minor triceps strain, threw off the mound Monday and came out of it feeling good.
“Awesome day,” Doolittle said. “Very happy with how it went.”
He’s scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Wednesday. That’s partly to give him a chance to work on his offspeed stuff but also partly due to the schedule. The A’s play their next four exhibitions against AL West foes, followed by two games in a row against the Kansas City Royals, who they see in April.
Melvin said Doolittle could be joined by other relievers throwing in minor league games, just to avoid opposing hitters getting a good read on them.
ODDS AND ENDS: Coghlan, getting a start at second base, hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run shot in the sixth. He’s hitting .233 in exhibitions. … Fernando Rodriguez relieved Bassitt and threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He holds a 1.08 ERA over six appearances. ... Infielders Tyler Ladendorf and Max Muncy were optioned to Triple-A Nashville.