Bassitt Goes into Monday Start Missing Both Athletics' Fans and Fellow Starters

John Hickey

Chris Bassitt will make his first start of the 2020 season in an empty Coliseum Monday afternoon against the Angels without fans anywhere to be seen and without easy access to his mentors.

He’s not sure which is worse.

Talking in a video conference call Sunday morning, the right-hander said just seeing a couple of games played so far this weekend with no fans in the stands brought home a stark reality, that he, at least, underappreciated just how important fans are to an athlete’s performance.

“It’s just a drastically different environment to play a game,” Bassitt said. He pitched four innings against the Giants in an exhibition game Tuesday, so he knows of what he speaks.

“You’ve got to kind of push through and understand what the main goal is and kind of know that this is going to be different.”

When he’s starting a game, Bassitt has historically relied on other starting pitchers to bounce ideas off between innings. Now those pitchers are isolated, sitting in the devoid-of-fans stands. That’s where Bassitt will be Sunday against the Angels, and that’s where his mentors will be during Monday’s game. Nearby, but not near enough by to chat up.

While some pitchers, like Saturday’s starter Sean Manaea like to cocoon into their own private space during starts, Bassitt said he’s the “exact opposite.”

“I want to talk to everybody; I want to hang out. I don’t want to take it too serious,” Bassitt said. “Starting a game and not having the (other) starters there to kind of just talk with and say, `Hey, this is what’s going on.’ Now they are sitting in the fourth row.

“(As starters) we all have the opportunity to kind of watch each other and say what’s going on throughout the game, but with the circumstances we have, we don’t have that opportunity to talk with each other during the game. I’ve had starts where Brett Anderson or Sonny Gray and guys like that would pull me aside and say `listen, this guy is setting up you up,’ or `slow down a little bit.’ They are breaking down your game.”

Bassitt wasn’t originally scheduled to open 2020 in the A’s rotation, not even after starting 25 games for Oakland last year. He’s got moved in as soon as it became clear that Jesus Luzardo’s battle with COVID-19 was going to keep him from being built up enough to start. Luzardo pitched Saturday, three innings of scoreless relief, and may or may not get another relief appearance. When he returns, either Bassitt or Tuesday starter Daniel Mengden will probably move back to the bullpen.

Bassitt said watching the 22-year-old Luzardo put his left arm through its paces Saturday was something special.

He said he “wasn’t shocked by any means” to see Luzardo handle Angels hitters as well as he did.

“I understand that we’re Oakland and we don’t have a major market, but he has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the game,” Bassitt said. “He has the stuff. He has the mentality. He has the calmness to his game. He literally could be one of the top three premier pitchers in the game. It's obviously extremely exciting to have him on our team,”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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