CHICAGO -- Just because Chris Bassitt’s time in the major leagues this month is mostly of the getting-to-know-you variety doesn’t mean he can’t open eyes a little further before the regular season closes for the Chicago White Sox.
Bassitt was given his second career start Wednesday and showed the playoff-contending Oakland Athletics his potential.
The 25-year-old right-hander gave up one run on five hits over six-plus innings in the Sox’s 2-1 victory. He already appears improved from the pitcher who gave up five runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings in his major league debut Aug. 30 against the Detroit Tigers.
A week and a half with pitching coach Don Cooper has done him wonders.
“Yeah, I put a lot on Coop’s hands,” Bassitt said. “We’ve really been working hard on lefties -- changing my approach on lefties. It’s pretty much going to be live or die with how much I throw inside to lefties.
“Obviously, my two-seam sinker is my best pitch. But if I can’t throw it in effectively to lefties, that pretty much eliminates my best pitch. That was the key tonight.”
A broken right hand limited Bassitt to eight minor league starts this year, six of them at Double-A Birmingham, where he went 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA and showed enough to be called up -- even before rosters expanded at the start of September.
Common sense says Bassitt heads to spring training with the major league club next year and starts the season at Triple-A. In the interim, he’s making a significant impression.
“This is one of those [outings] where you can always recall this and know you can come back and fight your way back through it and give us a chance to win,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I thought he did a great job.”
Regardless of the pressure Bassitt is putting on himself to succeed on the major league stage in September, the White Sox front office wouldn’t hold it against him if he struggles. The reality is he probably won’t set himself back in the eyes of the club right now.
To his credit, it’s an opportunity that isn’t being wasted. The White Sox have to be pleased with Bassitt’s willingness to throw strikes and trust his stuff on Wednesday.
“I didn’t expect to come up and just dominate,” Bassitt said. “I’m going to take my lumps here -- I know I’m going to. It’s a huge learning curve. I know there’s things I’m really going to have to improve on, and obviously, pitching to lefties is going to be one big thing going forward.”
Other changes have already occurred, with more on the way as his fine-tuning has begun in earnest.
“I threw more changeups today than I think I did all of last year in Double-A,” he said. “I probably threw seven or eight changeups, which is extremely rare for me. I don’t really throw changeups. That’s another thing going forward: I’m going to have to throw a lot more changeups just to really make that honestly a weapon, put it in the back of a hitter’s head like, ‘Hey, he has this.’”
After the White Sox’s season is complete, Bassitt will take his new bag of tricks back to the Arizona Fall League for a second consecutive year. Spring training will be around the corner after that. With a lot coming his way, Bassitt has figured out how to simplify the thought process.
“I’m not worried about next year at all,” he said. “I’m worried about coming in tomorrow and seeing what Coop has to say.”
Although the crowd was small Wednesday, with the White Sox long removed from playoff contention, there was still plenty of significance to the outing for Bassitt. If the White Sox were in contention, he probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to start Wednesday. That’s one of the rare benefits of the team’s disappointing season.
These final few weeks will be invaluable to Bassitt moving forward.
“You have to control your emotions; he’s excited he’s up here,” Ventura said. “He’s going up against a very good team, a team that is in the race and a team that has a lot of professional-type hitters that will wear you down.”
Over the past week and a half, he has gained knowledge he wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.
“There’s not really scouting reports at Double-A,” Bassitt said, contrasting the minor leagues to his first taste of the majors. “You know everyone’s weaknesses, [and] you know everyone’s strengths up here, which could be helpful but at the same time could overwhelm you a little bit.
“The biggest difference I saw right away was two-strike approaches. My first start versus Detroit, I probably gave up four or five two-strike hits. It was me leaving stuff out over the plate. I was able to get away with that in Double-A, but not here, obviously.”