How Bassitt Turned Season Around During Time Athletics Were Shut Down Over COVID

Oakland Athletics starter Chris Bassitt, who will be facing some of the players he came up with while pitching in the White Sox organization in Wednesday's Game 2, used multiple bullpen sessions when the A's were shut down a month ago to refine his game. His turnaround resulted in the American League Pitcher of the Month award.
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There was a time when it seemed as if Chris Bassitt would never be here, starting Game 2 of the American League wild card against the Chicago White Sox.

That time wasn’t that long ago. As recently as July, the A’s had plans for a five-man rotation and Bassitt wasn’t in it, despite having started 25 games last year. The A’s plan was to go with lefty starter A.J. Puk, and Bassitt was strictly backup.

Then Puk what lost to shoulder surgery, Bassitt moved into the rotation to start the season. And now he’s there to stay. He was named American League Pitcher of the Month with a 3-0 record in four starts, allowing just one run.

Bassitt, who got his start with the White Sox and says he played with about a dozen players on the current Chicago roster, said “I’m just thankful” for the opportunity.

“I’m thankful for the White Sox and so many people there,” he said. “Obviously, I’m thankful for Oakland sticking with me through all the crap that I had to go through to get to this point.”

The “crap” includes shoulder Tommy John surgery in 2016, a year after Bassitt and Marcus Semien came to the A’s in a deal that saw Jeff Samardzija head to Chicago.

Bassitt was having a decent season, 2-2, 3.72 ERA, through August, but the turnaround didn’t come the club was shut down for a couple of days over social justice protests, to be quickly followed by fellow pitcher Daniel Mengden testing positive for COVID-19. That shut the team down for five days, and Bassitt was forced to just work in the bullpen during the eight games he had between starts.

“Everything kind of clicked for me after that start in Houston, where we had the protests and then the COVID and all that,” Bassitt said. I was able to throw like three or four bullpens. It was basically something that you really can’t do in the regular season.

“I was able to step back and look at what I was doing and how I could improve. We took full advantage of it and kind of manipulated some pitches around, and ever since we’ve been on kind of a roll.”

Manager Bob Melvin would phrase it more strongly. He says Bassitt has simply been the most consistent starting pitcher on a staff that has good starters and “deserves to be pitching early in this series.”

“He probably came into the season as the sixth guy for five (spots),” Melvin said. “But with the injury … he was thrust into the starting role, and it’s the best opportunity he’s ever had. And give him credit: he’s taken full advantage of it.

“He competes really hard, he always has, and he probably knows his mechanics and where the ball is going as well as he ever has in his career. He picked up a cutter and a sinker; he can split the plate with that. He has a really slow curveball. There’s times when he’s effectively wild. He’s very deceptive in his delivery, and he’s just put it all together this year.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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