To stay in the moment, Patrick Bailey’s motto this year has been “be where your feet are.”
The 23-year-old’s feet began in Double-A Richmond. Hot hitting took them from the east coast to Triple-A Sacramento after 14 games. Fourteen games and a groin injury to Joey Bart have now brought them to San Francisco.
Friday afternoon, Bailey stepped out onto the Oracle Park grass by himself and took in the scenery. The empty green seats in the third deck. The humongous score board. The coke bottle. The 12 retired numbers.
“Pretty special,” Bailey told the local media scrum in the Giants’ dugout Friday.
Bailey isn’t starting on Friday night, but is expected to catch Logan Webb for Saturday’s day game against the Marlins. Unless the switch-hitting catcher appears as a substitute in the series opener, that will be his MLB debut.
Either way, Bailey is here. He’s joining Casey Schmitt — picked one round behind him — and leaving top prospect Kyle Harrison, who went in the third round of that same 2020 draft class. The rookie needed just 28 games, splitting equally between Double-A and Triple-A this year, to prove himself worthy of a look despite stalling in Eugene prior.
Has it felt fast?
“Yeah, when you compare it to the rest of my leagues in the minor leagues, for sure,” Bailey said. “It’s been fun.”
Bailey finished the 2021 season in High-A Eugene and then spent the entire 2022 season there too. He played 116 games at the level, a disappointing stasis for a first-round pick.
But development isn’t always linear. Bailey started the 2023 season by hitting .333 for Richmond. For the River Cats, he took enough walks to reach base 35% of the time and Bart’s injury created a void on the Giants’ roster.
“We were making a joke in camp because he was playing in Eugene the past couple years, he said ‘I just want to get out of Eugene, I just want to go somewhere else besides Eugene,'” Blake Sabol, who worked with Bailey in spring training, said. “And then (today) I said, ‘Hey, you got out of Eugene.'”
Bailey’s defense behind the plate gives him a high floor. The Giants believe his glove is big-league ready. Bailey won a Minor League Gold Glove last year and drew rave reviews from pitchers who worked with him in the spring.
After Triple-A manager Dave Burundage broke the news to Bailey, he first told his wife, Leigha. Then he called Giants run prevention coordinator Craig Albernaz. One of Bailey’s special traits is his ability to throw out runners from different arm angles, à la Patrick Mahomes. When he participated in his first big-league camp in 2020, Bailey remembers Albernaz encouraging him to continue the unorthodox style.
“That’s fricken’ awesome,” Bailey remembers Albernaz telling him.
“He’s just a really good athlete,” Sabol, who’s starting Friday night, said. “He doesn’t do things super traditional. But he’s really good at getting rid of the ball, being accurate. I think that’s what’s really cool about him.”
Bart will be on the injured list through at least May 28. His groin injury is on the other side of the ailment he dealt with early in the season. Bart has improved defensively and has reduced his strikeout rate — accomplishing the two main objectives handed to him. A Bailey-Bart catcher pairing could work long-term, with Bailey being a significantly stronger hitter as a lefty.
Sabol has also hit well enough to earn more chances. Despite a 1-for-12 start to his career, the rookie has brought his OPS over .800. He’s still learning the position and has committed five errors this year, mostly on catcher’s interferences.
But the most pressing matter is if Bailey plays like Schmitt has, he’ll factor into the mix one way or another.
“I think we always try to see the entire staircase, like way far down the road in these situations,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Pat is not being called to the Major Leagues as just a fill-in for Joey. He’s being called up to the Major Leagues because we think he’s ready to help us win baseball games. That’s no guarantee of staying in the Major Leagues. It never is. But where we are right now with it, we want to give him an opportunity to show that he’s ready to be a contributing member of the Giants, help us win games and perform.”
- Ryan Walker, the other call-up Friday, has an 0.89 ERA in the extremely hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this year. He said he feels he’s had to work “so much harder” as a 31st round pick.
Walker’s most intriguing trait is his deceptive delivery. He’s always thrown across his body, using core strength and balance to maintain accuracy.
“He throws hard,” Bailey said. “From the third-base dugout pretty much.”
- Sandy Álcantara, the 2022 Cy Young winner, is starting against the Giants with a chance to get back on track. In his first eight starts, the ace has a 4.91 ERA and is coming off a six-run start.
- Bart is hitting the IL for the second time this year. His groin injury is on the other side of tightness he dealt with about a month ago, Kapler said.
When asked to sum up Bart’s season so far, the manager praised the former second overall pick.
“Joey has tackled a lot, and he’s tackled it admirably,” Kapler said. “He also has not been without his struggles. Many young players are. We asked him to focus on putting more balls in play, he was able to do that. We asked him to focus on his defensive work and his commitment to the pitchers, he stepped up and tackled that. He’s been an A+ teammate, member of our clubhouse. Those are things I think he’s actively working on. Some of our pitchers have asked him to be even more of a fiery leader sometimes. He’s stepped up and done that, too. The thing I have most respect for with Joey is his willingness to try things, make adjustments and constantly try to improve.”