Bass fishing for spot in Padres' 'pen
Right-hander eschews playing in Japan for shot at Majors
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It wasn't Adam Bass' scorn of sushi that drove him away from playing in Japan after three months last season, though the limited food options did weigh on the mind of the Padres pitcher.
"Food was definitely a struggle over there ... but you make due," Bass said on Thursday.
No, what really brought Bass back to the United States this spring was the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. Simply put, the 26-year-old right-hander, a non-roster invitee to camp, felt his chances to do so were better here than in Japan.
He might be right.
"I really wanted to come back here and get a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues," Bass said. "Being able to pitch in the Major Leagues is my dream. Playing in Japan was a great opportunity, but growing up, it's not what you dream about."
But Bass' pursuit of making it to the Major Leagues is no pipe dream. If anything, he has improved his chances of doing so this spring by tossing four scoreless innings over three outings, impressing manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley.
"The thing that I was most impressed with was during the intrasquad game, I was sitting behind home plate and could see he has some deception," Balsley said. "Not many guys can pitch up with their fastball. Chris Young can. Bass is similar in that his ball sneaks up on guys. He's got late life."
And perhaps a new lease on his professional life, as the 6-foot-6 Bass is back playing here in Arizona after a three-month stint last season with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League.
Bass, selected in the 10th round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft by the Diamondbacks, was leading the Pacific Coast League in ERA (2.16) last season when he had the opportunity to make a jump to Japan, where he would make more money (close to $250,000, which is much more than most Minor Leaguers) and get a chance to experience something new.
"I would have preferred to stay here and pitch in the Major Leagues, but the opportunity wasn't there," Bass said. "It was a huge blessing, a chance to make some money and go to a country I might never have gone to and experience another culture."
Bass only appeared in five games with the Golden Eagles, going 0-2 with a 7.63 ERA in five games. He has no regrets about his decision, though it made him realize that the best way to reach his goal of pitching in the Major Leagues was to do so back home.
Bass signed a Minor League contract with the Padres in November that included an invite to Spring Training, where, unlike other pitchers early on in camp, he has been able to use his fastball and sinker with good command to throw strikes.
"The last couple of springs, I wasn't throwing strikes [early], and maybe my mechanics were a little out of whack," Bass said. "This year, being with a new organization, I wanted to come in and give a good first impression. I made an effort to start throwing earlier and get in the groove so that I could be a little more fine-tuned when I got here."
So far, it's worked well for Bass. On an otherwise forgettable day for pitching on Wednesday, when the Padres allowed 15 runs on 22 hits to the Oakland A's, Bass retired all three batters he faced.
But could Bass be a guy that emerges from the muddled mix for spots in the bullpen?
"We're going to keep running him out there," Black said. "He's a guy our scouts and a couple of our front office people identified. He's a guy who, if he continues to pitch, can force his way [and make us] make some decisions."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.