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Bauer Finally Meeting Expectations at Major League Level

Bauer Finally Meeting Expectations at Major League Level

| On 23, May 2014

For Trevor Bauer, becoming the front-line Major League starter he should someday be, has never really been a matter of talent. That has always been there, for the Indians right-handed, 23-year-old. Where Bauer has shown a lot of improvement in the past year has been more between the ears.

Bauer seems to be in a far better mental place right now than he was a year ago. Whether that is because of aging and maturing or because he is finally having success against baseball’s best hitters is unknown. What is known is that Bauer, in two Major League starts and seven more in Columbus, has resembled the future ace Cleveland thought it was trading for in December 2012 when the club parted ways with Shin-Soo Choo in a three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Last year, Bauer was compared to a mad scientist. He was constantly tinkering with his delivery and experimenting with different ways of pitching. While that was deemed as a natural thing to do for a young player on the minor league level, it was Bauer’s insistence on toying with his mechanics in Major League games that raised some eyebrows, along with his ERA to a forgettable 5.29 in four Cleveland starts.

Bauer, due to injury, had lost much of his offseason before that 2013 season. He said not being able to work on fine-tuning led to his having to make in-season adjustments on the fly. For the most part, the results did not match the effort.

As spring training rolled in this year, Bauer maintained that he had had a productive several months away from the game. He had been able to work on what he felt were his biggest flaws. More importantly, Bauer thought he was ready to have that break-out season that had been anticipated ever since 2011 when Arizona made him third pick, out of UCLA, in that year’s amateur draft. It remained to be seen.

Bauer did well in spring training, but Tribe management put veterans Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin ahead of him in the pecking order. With Carrasco, it was likely one last chance to prove himself as a starter and get something out of the failed 2009 Cliff Lee trade. With Tomlin, there was a guy who’d had success in the Majors but missed almost all of 2013 and half of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

Rather than sulk about being sent back to Columbus, Bauer decided to prove what he said in the offseason was correct. He has pitching exceedingly well with the Clippers. Of course, he was lights out at Triple-A in 2012 before stumbling last year.

More importantly, Bauer has now had two very good starts with the Indians this year. He made a spot start, as a part of a double-header against San Diego on April 9. He allowed two runs, one earned, over six innings. Of course, critics will contend that the Padres are as close to a minor league lineup as you can get in the big leagues.

If that is the case, then the Tigers, led by reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, are about as big league as it gets. All Bauer did against one of the game’s best squads on Tuesday was throw six innings, allowing two runs and striking out five batters.

Two games, admittedly, is a small sample size, but Bauer has been heads and shoulders above where he was in 2012 and 2013 when he labored through four Major League outings each year.

It is obvious that Bauer is not going to the mound this season and working on new things. He seems a lot more comfortable with his stuff and is trusting what he brings to the table a lot more.

The last two seasons, Bauer seemed more like a head case, than anything. In Arizona, Diamondbacks management and players grew weary of Bauer walking to his own tune. It is the biggest reason the club was so willing to part with a player it had drafted so highly just a year-and-a-half prior.

Last year, Tribe fans had nod in agreement with Arizona fans as they witnessed Bauer get in his own way and into his own head time and time again. He was not willing to trust himself, at times, let along what coaches or veterans might be telling him.

It is the biggest change between this year and last year, that Bauer is pitching more than toying. It could be what finally leads the young starter to finally having a long run in the majors.

Bauer seems to be in Cleveland for a while, at any rate. With Carrasco and second-year hurler Danny Salazar both flaming out in the season’s first month-plus, the Indians need someone to shore up the back end of the rotation. Tomlin has stepped in, quite nicely, to the fourth starting spot. Bauer will now have a chance to make the fifth spot his.

With two excellent performances under his belt and proof that he has little left to prove against minor league hitters, the Indians would not appear to be itching to send him back to Columbus any time soon. Bauer is going to get a good, long look and could be this year what Salazar was last year – a young starter who gets a long look in the big leagues and shines.

The difference between Bauer and Salazar is that Salazar may have been rushed a little too much. He was not a finished product and is now back in Triple-A trying to become a finished product. Bauer seems to be done fine-tuning or at least in a good place. Unlike Salazar, who could be labeled a thrower, Bauer is a true pitcher, relying on stuff more than a mid-to-high 90s fast ball on every pitch.

Bauer finally appears ready to step in and help at the Major League level for the long haul. He has a little ways to go before he fulfills his promise as a top-of-the-rotation guy. However, he is a lot more on his way there now than he was a year ago. Bauer claimed to be back on track during the offseason and now his actions are speaking just as loudly as those bold words.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images