The Joey Bart era is off to a hot start. Can Giants catcher keep it going?

San Francisco’s new backstop is impressing at the plate, and behind it

By Chris Haft

Special to The Examiner

Joey Bart has been impressive in the first few games of the season, impressing fans with his bat and earning the respect of staff ace Logan Webb with his work behind the plate.

Bart clobbered his first major league home run and scored twice in the Giants’ 6-5, 10-inning win over the Marlins in last Friday’s season opener. He also collaborated with Giants starting pitchers to generate 11 scoreless innings in his first two starts, working with Webb for six innings Friday and with Carlos Rodon for five innings Saturday.

That’s the type of all-around excellence that Bart’s detractors considered him incapable of while disregarding the talent that made him the second overall selection in the 2018 draft. No way, they said, could Bart ever match Buster Posey, the seven-time All-Star who retired after last season. And Bart, who’s beginning what likely will be his first full big league season, obviously still has miles to go before any comparisons to Posey can even be considered.

Nevertheless, Bart prompted optimism with his clean break from the gate.

“Nobody’s going to be Buster Posey,” Webb said. “That’s something I hope doesn’t get put on him. He’s going to be Joey Bart. And it’s going to be something special.”

That last sentiment was part of Webb’s good-luck wish to Bart before Friday’s game. As they walked to the dugout from the bullpen following pregame warmups, Webb said to his batterymate, “Let’s do something special.” Bart responded to the encouragement: “Sometimes it’s nice to hear a guy say, ‘I trust you — let’s keep it rolling.’”

Bart and Webb fell into a shared rhythm immediately. “I feel like when I’m throwing well, it’s kind of quick-paced, it’s kind of going fast,” Webb said. “He got that. He was ready for it. And it was fun.”

Webb remarked that though his slider moved well in pregame warmups, Bart seldom called for it during the early innings, because the flow of the game didn’t dictate for it to be used. That reminded Webb of a certain ex-Giants catcher.

“I hate to say this, but it’s something Buster would do, kind of get the feel of the game,” Webb said. “(Bart) showed that.”

Bart was noticeably animated after the Giants blanked Miami in the 10th inning of the opener. He hollered joyfully, pounded his hand into his catcher’s glove and slapped reliever John Brebbia on the back. It served as a reminder that defense comes first for players of Bart’s position. “You live for those moments as catchers,” Bart said.

Bart helped galvanize the offense with his fifth-inning clout off Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara. The longball was welcome for Bart, who had 117 plate appearances in the Majors spanning 2020-21 without a home run. “It’s about time,” said Bart, who was renowned for his power as a collegian at Georgia Tech.

Bart knew that he would continue to take not-so-subtle kidding from teammates until he actually went deep. His going homerless in 33 games in 2020 was a statistic that they wouldn’t let him forget.

“They’ve been chirping at me for a while. As they should,” Bart said.

Webb said that the absence of unnecessary pressure will help Bart. “I’m glad he got (the home run) out of the way in the first game of the season, so he won’t be thinking about it. Because he didn’t have one in ‘20,” Webb said. “It’ll be the first of many.”

Chris Haft is a longtime Bay Area baseball writer who covers the Giants for The Examiner.

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