DETROIT: Trevor Bauer returns today for his third fun-filled start with the Indians.
In two previous outings, Bauer is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA, numbers that belie the unusual nature of his performances. To put them in sharper focus: In 10 innings, he allowed only three hits but walked 13 and struck out seven.
Recalling Bauer’s first start, against the Rays, manager Terry Francona said, “We’re in the dugout and he walks the first four guys [in the first inning]. I’m thinking I’m going to have to get somebody up and use the bullpen for eight innings. But he ends up getting through the fifth. He just didn’t give in. That showed me a lot.”
Bauer has lived up to his hype in a lot of ways, even though he has spent most of the season at Columbus, where in his last start he walked four, hit four batters and threw a wild pitch. But when he was removed after 6⅔ innings, he had yet to give up a hit.
Extremes have been his modus operandi, but at 22 nobody expects Bauer to be a finished product.
“He shows us a lot,” Francona said. “But he needs to work on his command, especially command of his fastball. Actually, he doesn’t need to command it [pinpoint it within the strike zone] as much as just throw it for a strike.”
Bauer’s stuff is well above average. His fastball reaches speeds of 94-95, and he has an exceptionally polished changeup. But Francona thinks he has another important asset.
“What gets hidden is that he’s a fierce competitor,’’ the manager said. “You just don’t see it because of his demeanor. He’s a sharp kid. He’s just not the loudest guy in the room.’’
A reputation for inflexibility
That does not mean Bauer is passive and can be easily manipulated. He has been a student of pitching since he was a young teenager, and he has been tutored by some unconventional but respected teachers. Because of the passion with which he believes in his techniques, Bauer has been painted as an inflexible eccentric.
“Josh Beckett was called stubborn in Boston,” Francona said, recalling the Red Sox ace whom he managed for several years. “But there came a day when we were glad he was. I think this kid will be the same way.
“He wants reasons, and we should have them. He told me that until a couple of years ago, he wasn’t into strength and conditioning. I asked him why, and he said until then nobody ever explained why it was so important. Now he says, ‘I’ve got some catching up to do.’ ”
Part of Bauer’s pregame routine is playing catch from 250-300 feet, and one of his drills involves maneuvering a flexible, six-foot long rod with each hand.
“I have no problem with his preparation,” Francona said. “He has that black stick, and he thinks it helps him. That’s fine with me.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.