Stephanie Storm’s final thoughts about the increased maturity of Indians young pitcher Trevor Bauer and how it helped lead the Indians to a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers Tuesday night at Progressive field.
1) About this time last year, Indians pitching prospect Bauer was in the midst of overhauling his throwing mechanics. Worried about his long-term ability to be successful at the major league level, the young right-hander practically stripped down his delivery process and went about rebuilding it – pain staking piece by piece.
2) I get that it was something he felt he needed to do, but the timing of when he did it was miscalculated. As was the way he was sort of went all lone cowboy about it, instead of planning the process more with the input of the Indians staff.
3) Thus, the transition ultimately proved to be a painfully slow process, especially while undertaken in the midst of the baseball season – mostly at Triple-A Columbus, but a handful of times with the Indians (remember the time Bauer pitched exclusively from the stretch in a spot start with the Tribe?).
4) The result was a roller coaster season by the Indians third-best prospect (according to Baseball America), who’s every peak of triumph seemed to be promptly followed by a gut-busting valley. Along the way, Bauer issued 89 walks over 138 1/3 innings between four mostly-frustrating spot starts with the Indians and 22 starts at Triple-A Columbus.
5) Now fast-forward a year. Bauer’s revamped delivery has produced a good jump in velocity - from pitching in the low 90’s mph to the high 90’s mph. More importantly, are the eye-opening results that led to replacing struggling Danny Salazar (now working out his issues at Triple-A Columbus) in the Tribe’s starting rotation.
6) The difference is simple, really. Yet, stunningly significant.
“I’ve been able to be consistent,” Bauer, 23, said. “I’m not trying to change stuff like I was last year. Then I had a really good off season where I worked really hard for a long time. So I came into spring training with that much better platform to improve on.”
7) Before his major league promotion Tuesday, Bauer went 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in seven starts for the Clippers. Over 46 innings, he’s struck out 44, walked 14 and held hitters to a .216 average. He ranked sixth in the International League in ERA, tied for 11th in strikeouts and was 9th in WHIP (1.09).
8) Tuesday’s game marked Bauer’s second start for the Indians this season, as he’d previously made one spot start April 9 in a 2-1 loss to visiting San Diego, striking out a career-high eight batters and limiting the padres to one earned run as part of a double header.
9) It was a good start to show the Indians brass he was on the right track. But what he did against the Tigers Tuesday showed he was mauturing right in front of everyone’s eyes – and he did it against the best team in baseball while going up against against veteran Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander.
10) Bauer scattered seven hits over six-plus innings, limiting Detroit (27-14) to two runs – both solo home runs – to outfielder Torii Hunter with one out in the first inning and to catcher Alex Avila to lead off the fifth inning.
11) Ultimately what was so impressive about Bauer’s outing was that he showed a variety of ways in which he’s grown. Sure, the electric stuff was there, but he wasn’t just throwing, he has started to learn how to pitch.
“He did a lot of things good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He competed, he pitched in, he was aggessive attacking the strike zone. He changed speeds, he used all his pitches and with men on base, he executed pitches – that’s not the easiest assignment when you come up from Triple-A and face (Detroit). He even made a good play covering first (base in the sixth inning).”
12) But what I liked the most that topped off Bauer’s impressive perfomance against the Tigers was this rare glimpse he allowed the media after the game into his real feelings (not something he’s known to do). To me, it signaled that Bauer finally gets that it’s not all about him and he’s out there pitching for something bigger than one person.
“What was most frustrating for me last year was I’d go out there and I didn’t feel like I contributed to helping the team win,” Bauer said. “It’s nice to be able to do that this year.”