SCOTTSDALE -- Joey Bart crouched in the grass a few feet from the plate and slowly took his helmet off with both hands. He hit it against the ground in frustration, knowing, for the second time this season, that a poorly located pitch had done damage.
A 96-mph fastball got a direct shot at Bart's right hand in his third at-bat Tuesday night, fracturing his thumb and ending his Arizona Fall League season. Bart didn't look in pain as much as he looked disappointed. This is a game he loves, one he's extremely good at, but sometimes it's taken away unnecessarily.
A couple of hours earlier, Bart had settled into a seat outside the lavish clubhouse at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale and talked about what he has learned during his first full season. He brought up a hand fracture in April that cost him nearly two months.
"It's all about being available," Bart said during an interview that runs on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "That's the best thing about playing this game. The highest attribute you can have is to be available at all times. I think coming into the rest out here and into next year, that's my main goal, is to try to be out there every single game and whenever the manager puts my name in the lineup."
Bart did get some good news a day later. A hand specialist determined Wednesday that he won't need surgery and will be fully healed within six weeks, giving the 22-year-old plenty of time to prepare for his second big league camp. This one will come with higher stakes. The Giants expect to see their top prospect at Oracle Park next season, and Bart will have plenty of chances in spring training to prove to a new manager that the Joey Bart Era should start before the weather really heats up.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was aggressive with Bart and Heliot Ramos, his top two prospects, moving them to Double-A after half a season in San Jose. Both could start next season with Triple-A Sacramento.
"Those guys will have the opportunity to earn their way potentially all the way up to the big leagues next year," Zaidi said recently. "But it's going to be up to them."
Bart certainly did his part this season to force the issue. He hit 12 homers and slugged .479 in 57 games before a promotion. The Eastern League is much tougher on hitters. Ramos struggled to adjust at first, but Bart batted .316 in 22 Double-A games with four homers and a .912 OPS. That carried over to the Fall League, where Bart was one of the league's best players before getting hurt. He had four homers in 30 at-bats, with a 1.290 OPS and more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven).
"I'm just going in there and being competitive and being ready to hit and just trusting my eyes," Bart said. "That's kind of what's gotten me to where I am now and that's where I'll move forward. Through the offseason I can make adjustments and do drills and stuff to hopefully make me lay off pitches or be on time for other pitches, but mainly it's just been coming out here, keeping a clear mind, and trying to have fun."
That offseason came a few weeks earlier than Bart hoped, but it was a promising first full year as a professional. Bart's next at-bat will come in the Cactus League, and he said he's trying not to get too far ahead of himself as he thinks of the 2020 possibilities. Bart again brought up the first hand injury and noted, "you don't really know what can happen."
"You've just got to approach every day the right way," he said. "I've been lucky that I've been around some great coaches and people in college and with the Giants that lay that foundation, and I just go at it full speed ahead and put my head down and try to get to work. I know that if I take it day to day and just go play my game and have fun, then everything is going to work out."