Trevor Bauer is going to get another chance to see if he can make it in the major leagues on Tuesday with a start against the Detroit Tigers. One of baseball’s biggest enigmas, Bauer, 23, has stumped fans and coaches alike over his three-plus year pro career.
Bauer emerged from the prospect buzz of being a third overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft and made his major league debut just one year later. A national story, thanks to his unusual long toss and pre-game routines, his multitude of pitches and his heady approach to the game (and the bio-mechanics of pitching), Bauermania was at it’s highest point since the early days of Keifer Sutherland’s TV show, 24.
That major league debut was far from what the Diamondbacks hoped to get from their phenom as Bauer struggled with control and posted a 6.06 ERA with 13 walks in 16 1/3 innings. Branded as uncoachable, the Diamondbacks shipped Bauer to the Cleveland Indians as a part of a massive, three-team, nine-player trade that brought the D-backs shortstop Didi Gregorius.
With the Indians, Bauer walked seven in his 2013 season debut and was promptly sent back to the minors. In four starts last season, Bauer managed to get 2/3 more innings in (17) but actually walked three more batters than he did the year before (16 in 2013) while seeing his strikeout totals drop precipitously. Bauer was now in free-fall and he was still struggling with his control in Triple-A Columbus, walking 73 batters in 121 1/3 innings and seeing his K/9 ratio drop from 10.8 in 130 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012 to 7.9 with the Columbus Clippers in 2013.
2014 arrived for Bauer and, so far, the story has been completely different. Despite a poor spring training in which he walked five batters in seven innings, Bauer got a start with the Indians (in game two of a double header against the San Diego Padres) on April 9 and was very good), throwing six innings and allowing just two runs (one earned) four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. In seven more starts with Columbus, Bauer has been consistently at the top of the International League pitching tables with a 2.15 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and just a 2.7 BB/9 ratio (and 8.6 K/9 ratio) in 46 innings.
With Danny Salazar getting put on the disabled list, it’s now Bauer’s turn to show that his success in the 2014 regular hasn’t been a fluke. Jim Ingraham of The News-Herald, a northern Ohio newspaper, reported in January that Bauer had been working hard over the offseason to fix his mechanics. His 97-mph fastball that he deployed in college had dipped to 93 mph in 2013 but is back up in the elite range, averaging 96.55 mph in his 2014 big league start (courtesy of Brooks Baseball).
With his command better than ever and his fastball velocity back, will Bauer make the impression now on the big leagues that he was expected to back in 2012? Will the new Trevor Bauer be for real and take his place, at age 23, as one of the best young pitchers in baseball or will he implode again and continue to infuriate Indians fans? Let us know what you think!
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