The last time Joey Bart returned from an injury, the catcher made one thing clear -- he's one of the best prospects in all of baseball.
Bart's sophomore season was cut short at Georgia Tech after hitting .296 with 13 home runs in 44 games. He missed the team's final 11 games with a broken thumb.
"I think people kind of made that a huge deal, like it was the biggest deal in the world me breaking my thumb," Bart said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I remember I came into the season ready to go, ready to prove myself."
As a junior, he did exactly what he set out to do. Bart won multiple national honors while hitting .359 with 16 home runs and wound up being taken by the Giants with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Fast forward two years after his broken thumb and Bart, the Giants' No. 1 prospect and top catching prospect in all of baseball, is again looking to show that an injury is only a tiny bump in his road to the show. He fractured the second metacarpal in his left (non-throwing) hand on April 15 after getting hit by a pitch that was oddly called a foul ball.
At the time of his injury, Bart was hitting .270 with two home runs and an .882 OPS in 10 games for the high Single-A San Jose Giants.
Though he's still in Arizona rehabbing at the team's training facility, Bart could be rejoining the San Jose Giants in a blink of an eye.
"I'm coming along well, I feel good. It's kind of up to them, the front office. It could be any day now," Bart says. "I feel ready to go and I'm just excited to get back up to San Jose with the team and win a bunch of games."
(Photo via Ali Thanawalla)
Once Bart learned the extent of the injury, he put his head down and did whatever it took to get back on a diamond. Within the first few days, he was already on the field, conditioning and working out. He's placed a heavy emphasis on being in the best shape possible and focusing on much more than just his hand.
"That's been a big priority, just working out and getting in good shape so when I come back, hopefully nothing happens to my body aside from my hand," Bart said. "That's kind of been the purpose. Keep everything on top and in tip-top shape."
Bart admits the process hasn't been easy, however. In the beginning, he wanted to push his timeline and get right back on the field. The future wasn't on his mind, all Bart wanted to do was play ball again.
As he nears his return, he now sees the bigger picture.
"It's been a little bit of a lengthy process. It wasn't a very bad fracture, but it was tough," Bart said. "I didn't want to give in too early. The last couple of weeks, it's been a lot better compared to the first few weeks. It's been very encouraging and I shouldn't be too far out here.
"Now looking at it, I understand that I need to be 100 percent confident in my hand and ready to roll on that first night that [manager Billy Hayes] writes me back into the lineup.
"I'm just really looking forward to getting back."
The face of the Giants' future has missed his team's last 38 games. Never mind that, though. He's about to be back on the field, and for once, this Bart should be on time or well ahead of schedule going to San Francisco.