Not the Season Trevor Bauer or Indians Expected
Mike Brandyberry | On 26, Aug 2013
When the Indians traded for Ubaldo Jimenez in July 2011, the hope was that they were acquiring a struggling ace pitcher who could be fixed and reassert himself to the top of the rotation.
Last December when the Indians orchestrated a three-team deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds they acquired Trevor Bauer with much of the same intentions as they had for Jimenez two years ago. Immediately there were stories that the Diamondbacks wanted rid of Bauer and that they had quickly grown tired of his warm up routines and trying to work on his own plan. Rich with young pitching in their minor league system, the Diamondbacks felt he was expendable.
Starving for starting pitching, the Indians felt Bauer was worth the risk since he would be under team control for at least the next five seasons (now it would be six) and has front of the rotation type stuff. Like rumors of his flaws swirled at the time of his trade, so did whispers that the Indians were aware of quirks dating back to his time at UCLA and they were prepared to take him in the 2011 First Year Player Draft if he fell to them at the eighth spot. Instead, they drafted Francisco Lindor.
Early this season, Bauer had both Triple-A and big league opportunities with Cleveland. While the rotation worked around injuries, suspensions and doubleheaders, Bauer saw four chances to throw at the big league level. Each start looked better than the last and the expectation that he could be a second half help to the rotation seemed reasonable.
Then Bauer took the mound on June 28 against the Chicago White Sox in the first game of a doubleheader. Without explanation, Bauer pitched exclusively from the stretch and did not survive the first inning. He allowed five runs on six hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, including two home runs. Indians manager Terry Francona defended Bauer after the game, explaining that he felt more comfortable pitching from just the stretch, but it appeared that Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway may have been just as surprised.
Bauer was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus between games and his name has been barely mentioned by anyone since.
Since his return to Columbus, Bauer has made nine starts with mediocre results. He’s back pitching from the windup when no runners are on base, but often runners are on base. In 51 innings, he’s allowed 56 hits and 30 walks since his meltdown in the Windy City. His best game was July 22, pitching nine innings, allowing three runs on six hits and four walks at Buffalo. That game is the only game he’s made it through seven innings, running his pitch counts up quickly due to walks and hits.
Jimenez is a free agent at season’s end and most fans will not be sad to see him depart Cleveland for elsewhere. He certainly has not ever developed into the front of the rotation starter general manager Chris Antonetti traded for. After two and a half seasons, his fourth pitching coach—Callaway—seems to have developed Jimenez into a five to six inning pitcher that will most nights survive to give the Indians a chance to win while dancing in and out of jams and logging 100+ pitches by the middle innings. It isn’t what Indians fans or the organization thought they were getting when they made the midseason trade with Colorado.
It’s still early, but the reports are starting to point in the same direction with Bauer. He isn’t pitching like a front of the rotation starter at Triple-A, much less the big leagues. His numbers for the season at Triple-A, 6-6, with a 4.18 ERA, allowing 115 hits and 66 walks in 116.1 innings doesn’t make anyone think of promotion. Instead, he’s been passed by Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco on the depth chart. Josh Tomlin has rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and could be recalled to the big league roster when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
Originally, the Indians likely hoped Bauer would excel at Triple-A and provide a boost to the rotation in the second half of this season, or at the latest 2014. Now, it appears the plan may be changing. He might not be so much the pitcher the Indians hoped for, but the one the Diamondbacks feared.
Photo: Columbus Clippers