Joey Bart

Ex-Giants catcher Bart back in the Bay, is happy with Pirates

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Pittsburgh Pirates have always had a bit of a Giants East feel to them, and their current roster is no different. The top two hitters in their lineup, Andrew McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds, were once traded for one another, and both were briefly Giants. Connor Joe, their cleanup hitter on Friday, was a surprise Opening Day starter in 2019.

You would think that would have made the transition a lot easier when Joey Bart was traded to Pittsburgh earlier this month, but in an odd twist, the only person he knew in the organization was a strength coach. 

Reynolds was traded to Pittsburgh a few months before the Giants drafted Bart second overall. McCutchen was traded not long after the draft. This fresh start comes with just about all new faces, but on Friday, Bart looked at home in his new colors. 

"I'm enjoying it. It's been a lot of fun," Bart said. "Obviously the transition is good, but it's hard to get caught up, so that's kind of what I've been doing, just trying to get caught up with everybody and get on the same page. But I love this group over here. It's a really fun (group) to be around, the staff is really fun to be around, Shelty (manager Derek Shelton) is awesome. It's been great."

The Giants traded Bart in early April when they could no longer carry a third catcher on the roster. So far, the deal has worked out beautifully for a Pirates team that's 13-13 entering this weekend's series at Oracle Park, one game better than the Giants. 

Bart homered in his first at-bat in black and yellow and has three in just 23 at-bats. He is batting .304 with an OPS approaching 1.200, and a couple of his new teammates said Friday that Bart has been a quick fit behind the scenes. He has been a calming presence for a young team and one of his new teammates said he already has taken on a leadership role. 

That's no surprise to Bart's old teammates. Manager Bob Melvin talked repeatedly this spring about how Bart was doing a great job of handling a potentially awkward situation, and he said Friday that he's happy to see the early success -- although there is a caveat. 

"A change of scenery sometimes serves you well," Melvin said. "You go somewhere else and take a deep breath and don't maybe have some of the baggage. I think everybody here is happy about the fact that he has gotten a little playing time and has done well. We'd like to see that temper for the three games here, but we certainly wish him the best."

It's early, and Bart has been through enough already in this game to know that small-sample success doesn't guarantee you anything. But he's happy with his new home, and he has familial ties to the Pittsburgh area. 

The Pirates seemed to come out of nowhere when the Giants designated Bart for assignment, as they already had former No. 1 overall draft pick Henry Davis and veteran Yasmani Grandal on their 40-man roster, with top prospect Endy Rodriguez likely to join Davis at the big-league level long-term. But Bart said he had a "weird feeling" about Pittsburgh being his likely home when he was in limbo, and injuries have opened up playing time. 

Even though the Giants knew all spring that they would have to trade Bart, the 27-year-old said everything seemed to happen quickly at the end. He still is working to get fully caught up with his new team, but he took some time Friday to reminisce. Bart and Logan Webb had a long conversation during batting practice and he hopes to catch up with others this weekend. If there are any hard feelings, he has never let them show.

"I was blessed, man," Bart told NBC Sports Bay Area of his time with the Giants. "I really enjoyed it. The fans are awesome. It's something that's so unique (with) the ballpark, and there are some really good people here. Coming back, I realized really what I miss. I really miss the people and seeing faces over there that I grew so close with for so long.

"I have nothing but respect for this organization. With BoMel and these guys, I think they'll be in a great spot. I'm obviously going to be following them. I'll be following my teammates and I wish them nothing but the best."

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