Bailey details key 2024 adjustment after big rookie Giants season

Bailey details key 2024 adjustment after big rookie Giants season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Patrick Bailey has fewer than 100 games of MLB experience, but there's not much he has to prove this spring. Coming off a rookie season in which he nearly won a Gold Glove Award, he firmly is entrenched as the Giants starting catcher for years to come.

Still, there was something notable about a swing Bailey took in spring training action against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.

Bailey hit just two homers as a left-handed batter last season, but he blasted a grand slam to deep right to cap a big first inning for a new-look Giants lineup.

With veteran Tom Murphy now in the fold, Bailey is likely to get most of his at-bats against right-handed pitching, and Tuesday's swing was a good start for a young catcher who came to camp with a very specific goal in mind.

Bailey was open about wearing down in the second half last season, when his average dipped to .188 and his OPS dropped more than 300 points from a very strong first half.

He lost about 17 pounds during the season and often would lose as much as six pounds during a game, so he came into camp with about 20 extra pounds to help deal with the grind of being a starting catcher. The goal is to keep the weight up during his second MLB season.

"A big part for me this offseason was to kind of put the weight back on that I lost," Bailey said on this week's "Giants Talk," which debuted Monday. "I feel great right now, I feel great in camp. I think the biggest thing for me will just be to keep that weight on during the year and keep that strength and muscle on. That's the biggest focus for me, for sure."

The mental grind was just as intense as the physical one, but things will only be ramped up in year two. Bailey will start on opening day and should shoot past last year's total for games caught pretty easily, even with an experienced backup this time.

On the first day of camp, new Giants manager Bob Melvin said he read some of Bailey's comments late last season about the physical toll. A former big league catcher himself, Melvin uniquely is positioned to help Bailey stay fresh, but he knows that's not the only thing he'll be dealing with.

"What he did last year, especially behind the plate, you don't see very often," Melvin said "Now, that second year, you have to focus even more. That second year can be humbling at times for young players but he knows it and he's going to work even harder. The pitching staff has a ton of faith in him already. For a rookie, he had a terrific year last year and I was on the other side of it a lot."

Even with the dip in production late in the season, Bailey was worth 2.8 WAR, per FanGraphs. Much of the offensive production overall came from the right side, which was a switch from his minor league days.

Melvin noted those splits early in camp when talking about how he would mix in the right-handed-hitting Murphy, who has a career .842 OPS against left-handed pitching.

"You know, sometimes switch hitters go back and forth," Melvin said of Bailey. "(Murphy) was a guy we were targeting early in the offseason to take a little off Patrick's plate as far as workload. And when Murph has been healthy, he's been a pretty good offensive player."

Murphy has quickly impressed the staff, but there's no doubt about who will get the lion's share of the time behind the plate. After an offseason spent bulking up, Bailey is ready for it, and he's excited to work with a new manager who has been through those long summers himself.

"It's awesome," Bailey said of Melvin. "There's not many people in the game that have done it as long as he has, catching in the big leagues and also managing and coaching. For me, right now I'm just trying to be a sponge and soak up all that I can of his knowledge and understanding of the game."

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