GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Trevor Bauer turned a corner last year.
If he stays in his lane this season, the right-hander could join two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to give the Indians three of the American League’s top starting pitchers.
After years of inconsistency and a slow start in 2017, the former first-round draft choice put it all together, racking up a career-high 17 wins and starring in the postseason.
He enters 2018 in position to rise to an even higher level.
“I think Trev’s in a good spot,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think we are relying heavily on him. I would say, if anything, he will increase his innings, just because I think he’s understanding pitching more. It’s never been about health or anything like that. I think as he understands what he wants to do, you’ll see him go deeper into games more often, kind of like he did towards the end of (last) year.”
“I feel like I’m in a good place coming into spring,” Bauer said. “I feel like I’m going to have a really good year. I feel like we’re a good team, even though none of you guys think we’re going to be. And by you guys, I just mean national writers and stuff like that. No one is talking about us, but we’re confident in our team and it’s going to be a fun year.”
Bauer made his first start of the spring Sunday in a 2-2 tie with Cincinnati at Goodyear Ballpark. He didn’t allow a hit over two scoreless innings, striking out three of the seven batters he faced.
“Facing big league hitters is different than facing minor leaguers and college kids,” Bauer said after the outing. “I’m happy with the results. I’m happy with what I saw. I know I can execute better and I felt a little out of sync mechanically, but it was a good first one.”
Bauer isn’t a fan of bullpen sessions and prefers game conditions.
“I’d rather face hitters,” he said. “It was good. I got to compete. I got to see some guys up there, try to beat them. Mostly, just to see the familiar surroundings, having a defense behind you, an umpire at the plate, just get that feel back.”
Bauer, who threw seven pitches when he arrived on the big league scene, is always experimenting. Last year, it was the split-finger fastball. This season, it’s the slider.
Pitching coach Carl Willis and bullpen coach Scott Atchison like the addition.
“That’s another pitch, especially to left-handers to kind of get in on them and keep them honest, is really going to help him,” Francona said. “Last year, he worked with his split so much and it just didn’t end up being a pitch that helped him enough. I think they feel like his slider is really going to help him.”
Bauer said he threw it on occasion Sunday.
“I was a little erratic, but I threw some good ones and I think once I fix being out of sync mechanically, I think I’ll be able to locate a lot better,” he said. “But the reactions I got on the good ones were good.”
Left fielder Michael Brantley cleared a hurdle Saturday in recovering from offseason surgery on his right ankle.
“He had a very good day,” Francona said. “The thing that’s probably been the biggest challenge for him so far is decelerating, and from all accounts he had his best day by far (Saturday).
“They’re starting to put a plan together where he’ll get out to get defensive work. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen (today), but they’re getting to a point now where they’re going to start to set out a schedule pretty soon.”
Still got it
Second baseman Jason Kipnis made his exhibition debut Sunday after missing the first two games with lower-back soreness. He struck out in his first at-bat before launching a solo homer to right in the third inning.
“You always like that,” Kipnis said. “Hitting, I had one live AB going into this and I saw about four pitches before that, and missed two days for the back. But we feel good. I’ve been putting in the work and I feel like the game’s already starting to slow down for me, which I’m already happy about. But, no, you’re never going to complain about a first-day home run.”
Kipnis is looking forward to a bounce-back season after an injury-plagued year in 2017 in which he played in only 90 games and hit .232 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs.
“Very much so. Not just for me personally, but I feel very confident in the team that we’ve had here for a while now,” he said. “Any time you have this kind of roster, I’m excited going into every season. I’m always excited for the new possibilities of a new year. I think this one should be even more exciting than a couple of the last ones.”
- The Indians claimed RHP Ben Taylor off waivers from the Red Sox. Taylor, 25, made his major league debut with Boston last year, appearing in 14 games and allowing 10 earned runs over 17 1/3 innings. Boston’s seventh-round draft pick in 2015, Taylor owns a 1-4 record and 2.95 ERA in 64 minor league appearances. Right-hander Cody Anderson was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear room for Taylor on the 40-man roster.
- The Indians will play the Brewers on Monday at 3:05 p.m. at Maryvale. STO will televise the game.