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Pirates’ Joey Bart enjoying new team as Giants’ former top prospect returns to San Francisco

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 26th, 2024 10:00pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When the San Francisco Giants cut Joey Bart in late March and began shopping for trades for their once-heralded top prospect, the catcher had an inkling about the Pittsburgh Pirates as a destination.

He looked around at other teams’ rosters and wondered who might need catching depth. Better yet, he had family ties — his father, Tommy, grew up near Pittsburgh in Lower Burrell, and instilled a love of Pittsburgh sports in Bart.

“I had a weird feeling about Pittsburgh,” said Bart, who returned to San Francisco on Friday for the first time since being dealt this month, as the Pirates opened a three-game set against the Giants.

The 27-year-old likes being closer to his family, and is having fun so far with his new club. Bart, speaking before the game Friday near the visitors’ dugout, is impressed by what he described as a mix of young and experienced players on the Pirates.

“I really am enjoying it and have a lot of respect for the way this club goes about things,” Bart said. “I’m just glad to be here.”

Bart was drafted second overall by the Giants in 2018, and for years was seen as an heir to Buster Posey at catcher with lofty expectations. But Bart never found his footing in San Francisco, hitting .219 in 162 games over four seasons.

When it became clear last season that Patrick Bailey was the Giants’ choice at Bart’s position, they designated Bart for assignment and then dealt him to the Pirates for Austin Strickland, a pitcher drafted in the eighth round in 2023.

He’s been making a good first impression.

Bart is off to a quick start in Pittsburgh, batting .304 with three home runs and hitting safely in six of seven games. He was not in the lineup on Friday but had started four of the last six games. Bart hit cleanup on Thursday, when he drilled a 3-run homer against the Brewers.

“A change of scenery sometimes serves you well,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said. “You go somewhere else and you take a deep breath and maybe not have some of the baggage. I think everybody here is happy about the fact that he’s gotten a little playing time, and he’s done well.”

Ironically, Bart will be battling for playing time with another top catching prospect in Henry Davis, who started and hit ninth on Friday. Davis was drafted first overall by the Pirates in 2021 but has yet to break out after making his debut last season. Davis, 24, is batting .180 in 19 games this year after hitting .213 last season.

Bart figures to get more playing time with the Pirates, as both Yasmani Grandal and Jason Delay — the team’s two other catchers — are injured.

“Whenever I’m called upon, whenever I’m playing, just bring what I got,” Bart said. “That’s how I’ve been approaching it.”

Bart has been focusing on catching up with a new organization. He said he didn’t know a single player on the Pirates, but has been asking a lot of questions to Andrew McCutchen — the longtime Pirates outfielder who spent part of 2018 with the Giants — who has been an “open book.”

One of the biggest adjustments for Bart has been meeting a lot of new faces after being with one organization for so long. He was looking forward to catching up with his former teammates.

“It’s crazy,” Bart said. “Once you leave, you don’t realize how big and how close those relationships were, and really what you valued. That’s important to me: relationships. Those are the things you’re really going to remember.”

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