Bauer Finally Showing What Made Him a High Draft Pick

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer has always had a lot of talent in his right arm. If not, he would not have been tabbed as the third overall selection in 2011 amateur draft by Arizona Diamondbacks.

Talent, alone, will only take you so far. In Bauer’s case, it took him all the way through Triple-A and into Major League Baseball in little more than a year from the date he was drafted. That is quite the accomplishment for any professional baseball player. However, it was when he arrived in a Diamondbacks uniform that it was learned he still had a lot of growing to do.

During the 2012 season it was said that Bauer, then all of 21-years-old, had a tendency to act like the kid he was. Teammates were not fond of the fact that he marched by the beat of his own drum, which included constantly shaking off his catchers pitch suggestions and a workout routine that was looked upon as unorthodox. The Diamondbacks felt they had a headstrong kid on their hands, who may never mature.

The perceived lack of maturity is the reason Arizona made him available after the 2012 season. In a year-and-a-half, Bauer had gone from highly touted draftee to being traded to the Indians in a three-team deal that saw Shin-Shoo Choo go to Cincinnati.

In his first year with the Tribe organization, Indians fans began to believe what the Diamondbacks had felt was Bauer’s biggest weakness – that he could not get out of his own head.

Bauer, just like he did in 2012, received four spot starts with the Tribe in 2013. He was a dismal 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA in those outings. It was actually an improvement from his first stint as a pro, having gone 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA with Arizona. The difference between 2012 and 2013 was that Bauer also struggled at Triple-A Columbus.

The biggest issue for the young hurler, much like in Arizona, seemed to be between the ears. He was clearly over thinking things on the mound. At the slightest hint of trouble, Bauer caved. If an inning began with a walk, it was only matter of time before that runner scored. If a run scored, it seemed as though it would begin an avalanche.

In 2013 Bauer would have times in which he would cruise for several innings and then inexplicably fall apart. He was unable to handle the pressure of base runners and had issues with limiting damage.

Heading into this past spring training, for the first time in his career, nothing was given to Bauer. Rather than being told he had a good chance to make the team this year, he was basically told he had to earn his way onto the roster. He was working from the outside of the rotation and would have to dazzle to get in.

Bauer pitched well in the Cactus League, but still opened the year in Columbus. After the Tribe spent a month watching Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco struggle to get anyone out at the bottom of the rotation, Bauer received the call to the majors, along with Josh Tomlin.

Everyone wondered what kind of pitcher they would see in Bauer. So far, there has been little disappointment. Bauer has been everything he was not in past years. He is much more calm and collected in the face of adversity and has vastly improved his accuracy.

Bauer began to prove that he had turned the corner from a kid with untapped potential to someone who was figuring it out in Triple-A during April and the first part of May. He dominated on the mound with the Clippers. Still, he had dominated at that level before, just not while in the Indians organization.

Through 14 starts in Cleveland, Bauer has not been lights out. However, he has been consistently sound and has almost always given the Indians a chance to win. He has rarely left the game with the contest out of hand.

In his Major League starts this year, Bauer has not allowed more than four runs. The six innings and three runs allowed game he pitched Wednesday in Minnesota was pretty much the norm for Bauer. He has allowed three earned runs in six of his starts, while surrendering two and four runs in three games each.

Bauer is also a fairly safe bet to not put strain on the bullpen. He has pitched into at least the sixth inning in all but one of his starts. He’s gone six or more in all but three of his outings. In all, Bauer is 4-5 with a 3.93 ERA.

Bauer has not been great, but has been just what you would want from a guy serving as the team’s No. 3 or 4 pitcher. He has certainly shown signs of growth. Along with the wins and losses and ERA, Bauer’s improvement can be seen best in his walks and strikeouts. This season he is averaging 8.9 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings. Last year those numbers were a dismal 8.5 walks and 5.8 Ks. He is also becoming adept at avoiding big innings. Early-inning walks and hits are no longer near guarantees to score.

While some fans may feel like Bauer has been around a while, that is only because of his rocketing through the minor leagues at such a young age. He has had three seasons of big league work. What needs to be remembered is that Bauer is still only 23 – not yet in his prime years. Most players Bauer’s age are still working on their game and improving. No 23-year-old is a finished product. That Bauer has taken such a giant step forward only bodes well for the future.

Along with getting rid of the issues between the head, Bauer also seems to be benefitting from a full offseason. This past offseason, he admitted to being hurt after the 2012 campaign and not getting to work on his mechanics like he would have wanted. That bled into the 2013 season and he was not completely ready to go.

He had no such problems this past winter and claimed during the winter press tour that he was stronger and better than ever. Bauer is currently proving that to be true. Finally, Bauer is showing that he can pitch at the Major League level with a measure of success.

A third overall selection, there are still high hopes Bauer will some day be a front-of-the-rotation starter. Before this season, it seemed like faint hope. Now, a guy who can strike guys out with efficiency and stay out of big innings, another step toward possible stardom seems all the more likely.

Bauer still has the talent. Now he has the sound mind to go with that very good right arm.

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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