Long term, Chris Bassitt wants to be a relief pitcher, but his coaches at Winston-Salem think it more beneficial for his growth if he starts.
With the way his season has begun, Bassitt can't exactly begrudge the decision.
The right-hander picked up his third consecutive victory and lowered his ERA to 2.10 through five starts Sunday. Bassitt allowed just two hits and struck out five over seven scoreless innings in the Class A Advanced Dash's 4-1 win over the Wilmington Blue Rocks.
"I've had numerous meetings with coaches and they've all said that, no matter what, starting right now will help in the future," Bassitt said. "I'm able to develop my pitches faster and throw more innings obviously. The more innings you throw, the more pitches you get to throw."
As a fourth-year junior at Akron University, Bassitt (3-0) posted a 1.42 ERA in 28 relief appearances. The performance put him on teams' Draft radars and led the White Sox to select him in the 16th round in 2011.
Bassitt succeeded as a reliever almost exclusively with a sinker/slider 1-2 punch. The repertoire worked well his first pro year, as he posted a 1.82 ERA with a 41-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 2/3 innings.
He finished that 2011 campaign with one appearance with Winston-Salem, and returned to the level to begin the 2012 season. In 42 relief innings, he posted a 3.00 ERA from Opening Day until early July.
In July, the Dash moved Bassitt to the rotation and the 24-year-old managed a 3.72 ERA in 55 2/3 innings. He struck out 44 and walked 25.
"Last year was just a trial phase to see how I could do," Bassitt said. "Realistically, I'm hoping to be a reliever, but with the success I'm having so far, it is what it is. I've added some secondary pitches and I'm trying to make them better this year in this role now."
Those new pitches are a changeup and a slider, both picked up last offseason. He's already comfortable using both, surprising even himself with how quickly he's gained command of the offerings. He still leans heavily on his sinking two-seam fastball and his slider, but having the curve and change at his disposal has made it easier to work deeper into games.
"I'm learning that as a starter, if I can throw the change and curve more, mix those in, my success rate is going up," he said. "I'm becoming more balanced in how I throw my pitches.
"If I need a pitch in a tight spot, it's still going to be a sinker or a slider, not the curve or the change. I know what my strengths are still."
Bassitt's hope is the success in Winston-Salem's rotation will help his work as a reliever going forward. The right-hander enjoys the relieving mentality, reaching back and using everything he has to plow through an effective inning of work.
"It's something I'm more comfortable doing," he said. "I've done it my whole life. My mentality is as a relief pitcher. I've been able to change my mentality of going out there and blowing it out in one inning. Now I'm pacing through hopefully six, seven, eight innings. My mentality the whole year is just to try to get early outs.
"Once I get two strikes on a hitter, I do still kick it into relief mode, though."
Chris Curley paced the Dash with four hits, finishing a triple shy of the cycle with two RBIs and a stolen base. Adam Heisler went 2-for-4 with a steal, a run and an RBI from the leadoff spot.