GOODYEAR, ARIZ.: Trevor Bauer may not have liked the way his bullpen session went Sunday morning at the Indians complex, but he’s got a few days to straighten himself out before he’s scheduled to start the Tribe’s first spring training game.
When the host Indians face their neighbor Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on Wednesday, Bauer is scheduled to throw the first inning.
“[Bauer’s] first bullpen, he came out and threw the ball and we were pretty encouraged,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “His delivery was good. [But] he had a rough day [Sunday], he didn’t command much. So I think he was kind of frustrated.”
But Francona cautioned about two things: First, he said it’s “too early in camp” to be concerned about a rough bullpen session.
“If [a rough outing] is gonna happen, let it happen now,” the Tribe’s second-year skipper said.
Francona also warned to not read too much into the team’s decision to start Bauer, who is among the group battling to earn the fifth spot in the starting rotation, in the Cactus League opener.
“[Pitching coach] Mickey [Callaway] and I just sat down and he gave the names,” Francona said.
“I mean, [Aaron] Harang’s pitching behind [Bauer] and we hadn’t even signed him yet the day we [made out] the schedule.”
Want even more proof that the first guy to pitch in spring training games means little?
Consider that minor league left-hander Giovanni Soto pitched the Cactus League opener for the Tribe last season to help get him stretched out for play in the World Baseball Classic. Soto later suffered a back injury and made only eight appearances at Triple-A Columbus all year.
But any mention of Bauer tends to garner a lot of attention, especially after he made more headlines than the Indians would have liked spending the whole season (after being traded from Arizona) painstakingly rebuilding his delivery. However, the offseason videos that Bauer sent Indians officials showed much progress, as did his initial bullpen session in Arizona last week.
“His hands are separating at a better [time] where he can catch up,” Francona said of Bauer’s new motion. “I thought he looked better. I thought he looked more like the guy you saw coming out of college.”
Harang, a veteran free agent who signed with the Tribe on Feb. 15, is scheduled to follow Bauer on Wednesday.
ADDING TO THE MIX — Right-hander Zach McAllister spent the offseason working on adding a slider to his repertoire, a good way to help avoid a sophomore slump in his second full season in the big leagues, as major leagues hitters will make quick adjustments.
“[It’ll help him] a ton,” Francona said. “And he’s driving his fastball down better than he has in the past. The combination of that and with the addition of the split and the changeup [will help] because they’re different pitches. He can throw his changeup for strikes; he can use his split especially against lefties when they’re in swing mode.
“But his slider has the chance to be a more consistent pitch. He’s a long levered guy and spinning that curveball consistently can give him some [different looks]. The slider’s coming out of his hand nice with a short little break, so it gives him another weapon.”
FRESH START — There are always a handful of veteran players in every spring camp – such as outfielders David Murphy and Jeff Francoeur with the Tribe – who hope getting a fresh start with a new team will mark a turning point in the right direction for their careers.
Francona gets it, having taken advantage of his fresh start in Cleveland after appearing to burn himself out a bit toward the end of his tenure in Boston.
“Our game every year is a fresh start, regardless of where you were,” he said. “But I can see where – I know how I felt last year – you get renewed energy and sometimes it helps.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.