SAN FRANCISCO — Seven days after his head was knocked back defending home plate, several days removed from the concussion-induced fogginess that followed, Giants catcher Patrick Bailey was activated for Wednesday’s series finale against the Guardians.
“It’s Opening Day 2.0 for him,” catching coach Craig Albernaz said, his Boston accent inflected with glee.
The Giants got their star rookie — their second-most valuable position player, by FanGraphs’ calculations — back with 17 games to go. With fellow rookie Kyle Harrison making his fifth big-league start Wednesday, Bailey reclaimed his spot behind the plate, where he is expected to start most, if not all, their remaining games.
“Just looking at the catching calendar through the end of the season,” manager Gabe Kapler said, “there’s a lot of Pat Bailey in there.”
Bailey missed the past seven games after suffering a concussion when Jeimer Candelario collided with him while sliding into home plate in an 11-8 loss last Wednesday at Wrigley Field. It was the third concussion Bailey has suffered, he said, adding to ones in 2021 and 2022.
“My body feels good, ready to go,” Bailey said. “I guess you worry about all the concussions. But it’s kind of part of it.”
The upside is that the time on the IL allowed for Bailey’s full body to heal. With 112 games between the minors and the major leagues, 104 of them behind the plate, Bailey has already easily shouldered the largest load of his career, long ago surpassing the 72 games he caught in 2022, his previous career-high.
Bailey acknowledged the physical toll was “maybe” having an effect on his offensive production, which once made him a true dual threat while paired with his elite defense. His OPS has fallen from .904 on the last day of June, when he provided the heroics with a late homer in a 5-4 win over the Mets, to .694 entering Wednesday.
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The late homer at Citi Field, which Kapler declared “superstar-caliber stuff,” was Bailey’s fifth in his first 33 games. He’s homered just twice in 51 games since.
“Obviously I feel better than I did seven days go,” Bailey said. “But we’ve got 17 to go, and I’d like to be back there for most, if not all, of them.”
Kapler put the over-under at 14.
“I think that’s really about, first of all, his durability and physicality and youth,” Kapler said. “This is all assuming he doesn’t have any concussion symptoms, which we’re expecting (he won’t).”
Joey Bart was optioned back to Triple-A Sacramento in a corresponding move. In four games, Bart went hitless in nine at-bats but drew a walk and struck out only twice, and Kapler said, “I think he sees the time that he had here with us as progress and a step in the right direction, and I think we see it the same.”