August 23, 2014

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Indians: Pitching prospect Trevor Bauer not ready yet

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It became official Thursday morning: Trevor Bauer will not leave camp as the owner of a job in the Indians’ rotation.

Highly regarded pitching prospect Trevor Bauer, who came to the Indians in a trade with the Diamondbacks, learned Thursday he won’t be in the rotation to start the season. (AP photo.)

That isn’t a surprise, even if Bauer is the most touted pitching prospect in the Cleveland organization since Drew Pomeranz. Even before the outset of spring training, Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti seemed to be leaning toward giving Bauer more time to develop at Triple-A Columbus.

The broad hints thrown around by the Indians’ deep thinkers came to fruition 10 days before the end of spring training. Bauer joined left-handed reliever Scott Barnes and right-handed starter Corey Kluber in being optioned to Triple-A. Nonroster invitee Giovanni Soto, another lefty, was reassigned to the minor league camp.

Moreover, manager Terry Francona announced that right-hander Jerry Gil, another nonroster invitee, was told that he would begin the season in Triple-A but was staying in big league camp.

“Right now, Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco are fighting for the last spot,” Francona said. “We have them ahead of those guys (Bauer, Kluber).”

Including players who will not be ready for the start of the season because of injuries, those sent back to the minor league camp and those who haven’t officially been returned to the minors but have been told that Columbus is their eventual destination, 33 players, eight over the active roster limit, remain in major league camp.

Bauer seemed unfazed by the news he was going back to the minors.

“The season starts in a couple of weeks, so wherever I am, on whatever day, I’m just getting ready for the season,” he said.

Wasn’t he disappointed not to win a roster spot?

“You can imagine what you want,” he said. “I’m trying to get better and get ready for the season. That’s all I can control.
“Spring training is an interesting time. I want to get ready for the season and work on stuff, and I don’t always perform at my best. I want to perform at my best, but I’m trying to get ready for the season. It’s kind of an interesting dichotomy.”

Hey, that’s the way the kid talks, even though he just turned 22 two months ago.

In five exhibition games, Bauer gave up seven earned runs and 14 hits in 14 innings, walking four and striking out nine.

He displayed a lively fastball and a change-up that would fool Sherlock Holmes, but he has issues with command and maybe other things.

Speaking of big words, Bauer took the inscrutable route when he talked for the first time Wednesday about making changes in his mechanics (or as he calls it, rewriting neuromuscular programs).

“My decision to make some changes is to help me long term,” he said, including alterations in the way he works his lower body and his upper body during his delivery. “I think I can get better and improve every day. That’s all I can handle.”

Francona tried to explain further.

“I think last year, he thought he didn’t pitch well because of a (groin) injury,” Francona said. “What he’s saying is that he wants to replicate his delivery. He didn’t command his fastball well yesterday, but he completely understands that.

“He’s got a good fastball, a really good change-up and pretty good breaking pitch. That said, you look up and his pitch count is up there.”

Bauer believes he has made progress in camp, but asked if he is where he wants to be, he said, “I’m just not there yet. That means everything. I need a lot of improvement in a lot of stuff.

“But I feel like I’m in a place where I can compete and get guys out. I’ll continue to work on stuff, but I can go out and give the team a chance to win.”

Bauer has been watched closely by the fans and monitored by the media more than most players, a phenomenon he doesn’t regard as either a positive or a negative.

“I don’t know what (the level of interest) everyone gets,” he said. “That’s just life with me, and that’s what I go by. It’s not like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m getting lots of attention’ or ‘Oh, wow, I’m getting no attention.’ It’s just the fishbowl I live in. That’s all I know. I don’t know anything different. It’s what I’m used to.”

The glare of publicity will diminish in Columbus, but Tribe officials are hoping that Bauer returns to the spotlight sooner rather than later.