OAKLAND - Games such as Saturday's cut through the hype and demonstrate that it won't all be smooth sailing for Franklin Barreto as his major league career begins to unfold.
The A's top prospect committed two errors at shortstop and was involved in a miscommunication on a pop-up. All three miscues led to Atlanta Braves runs in a 4-3 A's loss in which the margin for error was small.
"You're going to have some tough days," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
With just one week's worth of big league games under his belt, it's not wise to make judgements based on Barreto's numbers, and the typical growing pains should be expected, particularly for a player who's just 21. But the small body of work does flesh out the struggles: A .192 average (5-for-26) with 12 strikeouts in seven games.
He's committed three errors - one at second base in his debut last weekend and the two Saturday at shortstop. Based on the eyeball test, he seems smoother at second base, where the throws are shorter and he's got a bit more time on most plays. That's where most scouts see him fitting best.
Right now, with a healthy Jed Lowrie manning second for the A's and enjoying a solid season, shortstop is the best avenue for Barreto to get playing time until Marcus Semien comes off the disabled list. That could come in the next week or so.
The subtle indications have been that the A's plan to send Barreto back to Triple-A Nashville at some point for a short spell before bringing him back up for good. A trade of Lowrie before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which seems a near certainty, would potentially open up a permanent spot at second.
Until then, this is Barreto's chance to get acclimated to the speed and routine of the big leagues, endure some bumps along the road and learn from them.
"Obviously I felt a little bad (about the errors)," Barreto said after Saturday's game through interpreter Juan Dorado. "But the only way not to make errors is not to be playing. So keep my head up, keep working hard and keep trying to make those plays."
His first error came in the second inning, when he airmailed a throw over first base on Tyler Flower's grounder. In the top of the ninth, Barreto charged in on
Danny Santana's grounder and had it bounce off his glove. Both those miscues led to Braves runs.
Another Atlanta rally was aided in the seventh when Santana's blooper fell in shallow left. Matt Joyce was charging in from the outfield, Barreto was venturing out. Both called it, neither backed off and Barreto couldn't haul in the pop-up.
"That's obviously something that's happened twice now, and it's frustrating," Joyce said. "When I asked him if he heard me, he said no. … I told Yonder (Alonso) to translate for me and I told him it's my fault. If he doesn't hear me and if I don't call it loud enough and enough times then it's my fault and I have to make that adjustment."
Barreto's single in the fifth snapped an 0-for-14 streak. His bat is the strength of his game, as he's shown the ability to hit for power and spray the ball to all fields in the minors. But it also bears noting that Barreto was leading the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts (92) when he was called up to replace the injured Chad Pinder, who is expected to remain sidelined several more weeks with a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring.