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Trevor Bauer blocks out the background noise

Posted: July 2, 2014 9:55 p.m.
Updated: July 2, 2014 9:55 p.m.

Hart High graduate Trevor Bauer is working meticulously on his game as a Cleveland Indians pitcher.

 

When does it stop?

Maybe it’s getting closer.

All those stories about Hart High graduate and Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer being quirky or weird or whatever label that has been placed on him have a chance of going away the more he succeeds.

Now he feels he’s in a place to succeed.

Just 23 years old, the former No. 3 overall pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Draft is in his second season with the Indians after a somewhat tumultuous start to his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Now 10 starts into the season with the Indians, Bauer is starting to pour cement into a foundation.

“They believe in me,” Bauer said of the Indians. “But they believe in people in general — that you can improve. It’s not such a finalistic approach. It’s not, ‘Oh, he’s bad. Get rid of him.’ It’s, ‘He’s good. Praise him. He’s getting better.’ Or ‘He’s on a downswing. How can we help him turn that around?’”

Bauer was drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2011 after a spectacular career at UCLA.

But his training methods, his long-toss routine and his unique approach to the game were well-told stories that turned him into an oddity in baseball that some have still yet to understand.

A disconnect between Bauer and Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero and comments by owner Ken Kendrick to the effect that the pitcher needed to make adjustments preceded Arizona dealing Bauer to the Indians.

Bauer said all the talk about his different approach to the game from outsiders and all the criticism hasn’t affected him.

But does he feel because of it he has been labeled?

“People label you for all sorts of stuff,” he said. “The world is very absolute. You’re smart or you’re not. You’re good or you’re not. ... I do things differently I guess. Yeah it produced a certain level of attention. It’s different.

“So people either hate it or love it, so I guess I sort of polarize people. But the people who take the time to get to know me don’t find me that different.”

That’s something even his pitching coach for the Indians, Mickey Callaway, acknowledged.

“He’s not unorthodox at all anymore,” Callaway said. “He does some different things, but it’s all preparation. Everybody prepares differently. They’re all unorthodox. He has his own deal and he accomplishes it. The main thing we want (our pitchers) to do is have a good routine and go out and accomplish it every time, and that’s what he does.”

Bauer had a rough first go-around in the Cleveland organization in 2013. He pitched 17 big league innings with the Indians and walked 16 batters and had a 5.29 ERA.

In Triple-A Columbus, his ERA was at 4.15 and he walked 73 batters in 121 1/3 innings.

Callaway said Bauer’s mechanics were affected by a groin issue and Bauer himself said he was tinkering with things that produced the negative results.

However, his trial-and-error approach, he said, was set in motion with a long-term goal in mind and not the short term.

So if he didn’t have success in 2013, it wasn’t the end of the world because if he benefited over the long run, the tinkering was beneficial.

He said his offseason was critical and he worked, rarely taking days off.

The results of 2014 have opened some eyes.

Bauer pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs, two walks and two strikeouts on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium against the Dodgers.

In 10 starts this season, he has a 4.42 ERA and 1.46 WHIP — both high numbers, but the Indians like his stuff, his mental makeup and maybe most importantly, he’s walking far less batters — nearly five batters less per game than his career average coming into the season.

“He worked hard, came to Spring Training this year and seemed in a much better place to compete, and it started to show,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He’s able to do some things now maybe he wasn’t able to do last year — throw is fastball for strikes and make teams respect his fastball so he can throw his off-speed pitches over. He’s learning himself, and he’s learning the league, and we’re seeing him improve. He’s 23 years old. There’s a lot to love about him as a pitcher.”

Callaway said Bauer and the Indians have worked together to mesh their philosophies on pitching and preparation.

Bauer said he feels comfortable with the organization.

If that comfort leads to success, it’s good for both of them.

If the success quiets the critics, Bauer won’t notice.

He said he can only control what he does.

Everything else is background noise.

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