Fifteen thoughts for the 15 batters a struggling Trevor Bauer faced at Goodyear Ballpark.
1. When it comes to reading between the lines with Indians manager Terry Francona, Monday brought a triple play of comments to digest. The most puzzling was an unsolicited and seemingly jumping-the-gun comment about right-hander Bauer. “It’s not always going to be easy,” Francona said. “Nobody’s going to remotely give up. I still think there’s a good Major League pitcher in there. We just have to keep fighting, and we’ll fight with him. We’re going to figure it out.”
2. Francona spends much of his time with the media downplaying how much spring training games mean. That’s why his reaction to Bauer’s poor outing – seven runs (six earned), seven hits, two walks, one strikeout, one home run in two innings – was so puzzling.
3. Bauer came in with a 3.60 ERA in three previous games. He’d allowed two earned runs (and just five hits) in five innings. The changes he’d made to his delivery seemed to be becoming more effortless.
4. Sure, Monday was a setback. But the most striking part of Francona’s quote was “remotely give up.” No one in the media was ready to write Bauer off, at least for the future. (Although cynical reporters might have a statute of limitations on how many years the Tribe should wait to see if the Arizona Diamondbacks' third overall pick in 2011 will come around.) Bauer is only 23.
5. Was Francona trying to send a message to general manager Chris Antonetti and his staff not to panic over one bad outing? Is Francona becoming exasperated with Bauer himself and let a little of that slip? Was it just a poor choice of words? Or perhaps words carefully chosen to motivate Bauer or send a message to rely on the stuff the Indians have taught him? Maybe we'll find out the answer Tuesday morning.
6. Bauer does seem to be losing his chance to claim the fifth starter role, which now could come down to Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Harang and Josh Tomlin. Bauer seems destined for another year at Triple-A Columbus with pitching coach Tony Arnold.
7. As Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes pointed out, no one is really Bauer’s pitching coach except for Bauer and his father. It would have been interesting to see what Indians’ pitching coach Mickey Callaway could have done with Bauer this season. But perhaps not even Callaway can crack the code.
8. Read between the lines No. 2 was Francona’s continued dismay with reliever Nick Hagadone, who walked in a run in a bases-loaded situation for the second time this spring in the second inning. Francona threw out the “nobody’s giving up on anybody” in regards to Hagadone, too. Not a good sign. Reporters got the impression Francona would have been happier if Hagadone had given up a single than a walk.
9. On to the quote of the day, or at least until Bauer's came along. Before the game, Francona was asked if some of the spring competitions were beginning to sort themselves out. “Not really,” Francona said. “If I told you that I knew what we were going to do at third base, I wouldn’t be telling you the truth.”
10. That makes me think Francona is torn by the dilemma. He can hand the third base job to catcher Carlos Santana, with Santana's double duty as Yan Gomes' backup opening up a roster spot for Jason Giambi or an extra reliever or infielder. Or he can go with Lonnie Chisenhall, unimpressive at the plate but solid defensively. At least one of Francona’s favorite players (Giambi) could be on the bubble for final cuts. That makes the decision more personal than it normally might be.
11. On a lighter note, Elliot Johnson said he wasn’t embarrassed that the entire clubhouse sang him “Happy Birthday” to celebrate his 30th Sunday. He was more distressed he didn’t get it on video because he thought no one would believe him. “I don’t think I’ve had so many people sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me in my life,” Johnson said. “How many guys are in here, 70 something? It was a large number of out-of-unison voices, but it was fun.”
12. Francona said minor leaguer Jesus Aguilar, who hit 16 home runs for Double-A Akron last year, is pressing. Aguilar is hitless in 15 at-bats in 11 games, although he has drawn six walks. “This by no means defines what he’s going to be and we know that,” Francona said. “He probably doesn’t quite understand that. He’s trying too hard, but it will be OK.”
13. Good idea to sell Stadium Mustard and Montgomery Inn barbeque sauce at the team shop at Goodyear Ballpark.
14. There are two Indians spring training pins for sale, one with the block ‘C’ and one with Chief Wahoo, with fewer of the latter on the rack Monday. Even if sales are sparked by collectors who believe the Chief may soon be gone, it illustrates the team’s conundrum if it considers cutting ties with what many feel is a racially insensitive mascot.
15. If you’re attending the Indians-Reds game on St. Patrick’s Day, a college friend told me that when the Reds play in Goodyear, Skyline Chili is sold at a concession truck in the right field corner. See you in line.