After a 772-day absence from the major league mound, Chris Bassit‘s road to recovery from Tommy John surgery finally reached its destination last Saturday.
At no time did Bassitt think returning from UCL reconstruction surgery would be easy. But after navigating the most treacherous twists and turns of the journey, the 29-year-old right-hander hit a final road block earlier this season, deterring the foot-path from the big league bullpen to the big league mound.
In two stints with the A’s — first from April 20 to 26, then from May 26 to 27 — Bassitt was unable to make his way to the circle at the center of the diamond. He said not getting the nod was a bit of a blow:
“Mentally, the excitement of coming up and finally getting that so-called monkey off your back where you’re finally back and you’re pitching in the game, then you don’t do it. When you get sent back down it’s just like, c’mon.”
He added that it was hard to be upset at not getting the call as the long man in the bullpen when all the starters were shoving, asking:
“How can you be mad when (Sean) Manaea‘s throwing no-hitters?”
Last Saturday, he was recalled for a third time in 2018, this time with the knowledge that he would not only make an appearance but that the starting assignment belonged to him. And he did the most with his chance, holding the Royals to three hits and one run in seven innings of work, though it came with a loss. After that game, he said that he had not only been working to rebuild his arm strength since 2016, he had developed a more mature mental approach, making enduring such an outcome easier:
“In 2016, I let games like that kinda snowball on me. I didn’t really have perspective.”
He has that perspective now, after a two-year injury-hiatus, and the fall-off in stuff from April 2016 to June 2018 was negligible. The sinker, for which he is known, had good downward movement, though it was clocking in at around 93, slightly lower than the 95 miles per hour he featured at 27.
Using that sinker, coupled with a big 70-mph hook, Bassitt kept the Royals off-balance all afternoon, giving the A’s an extraordinary chance to claim a win. But he was never rewarded for his effort. Still, he came away with the understanding that losing a game like that was nothing more than baseball being baseball, and realizing that, at some point, the offense will get him a win when he was less than deserving of it.
For his efforts, he was sent back to Triple-A Nashville the very next day.
With Trevor Cahill, whose start Bassitt took five days ago, being placed on the disabled list Thursday, Bassitt was once again recalled, and once again penciled in as the starter in place of Cahill.
Manager Bob Melvin was unwilling to predict how long it could take Cahill to recover from an achilles injury, but said it could be a while given Cahill’s need for a boot. The skipper added that Bassitt, through hard work and perseverance, showed up Thursday morning confident, and in a jovial mood:
“He’s in a pretty good mood right now. When he got here this morning, he had a big smile on his face and rightly so.”
Melvin will hand Bassitt the ball Friday night to face the Los Angeles Angels (37-32), who have claimed five wins in seven meetings with the A’s this season. Bassitt, in his fourth big league season, has faced the Halos twice in the past (once as a starter), allowing six earned runs in 5-2/3 innings (9.53 ERA).
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.