PHOENIX — Phenom Trevor Bauer will make his major league debut for the Diamondbacks on Thursday, sources with knowledge of the D-backs’ thinking said Sunday.
Bauer, who has dominated minor league hitters at two levels this season, was pulled after making 50 pitches in 2 2/3 innings in his start for Class AAA Reno on Sunday, an outing that could stand as a perfect off-day throwing session before a Thursday start.
Bauer, 11-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 starts, leads minor league pitchers with 116 strikeouts after getting five Sunday. He did not leave because of an injury, sources said.
“Soon,” a source said when asked when Bauer would join the team.
The D-backs need a starter in Atlanta on Thursday because Joe Saunders was placed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation on Saturday. Ian Kennedy would have been able to make that start on normal rest because of Monday’s off-day, but manager Kirk Gibson said in his press briefing Sunday that Kennedy will start Friday.
The third player taken in the 2011 draft, Bauer is 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings at Reno. He was promoted to Reno on May 17 after going 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings at Mobile.
Bauer would make his home debut July 3 against San Diego if the D-backs stay in rotation and Saunders is not back. Saunders is eligible to return from the DL on July 2 but will not travel with the team on their road trip this week, and it is not known when he will start throwing again.
“Is he ready? How do you know?” Gibson said Saturday, speaking generally about Bauer.
“There are certain things he does great. We all know he has great stuff. His last two starts, he has had 100 pitches in five innings. If I was Trevor, I can tell you, when I was a big leaguer, I would argue that I would get better with better competition. I think that’s how he probably thinks. I don’t know that we know that answer.”
Bauer threw seven shutout innings and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory over Tucson on June 8 before hitting a bit of a rough patch, allowing 15 hits and six runs — including a home run by rehabbing Troy Tulowitzki — in his next two outings. He struck out 11 for the first time in a 2-1 victory over Oklahoma City on May 18.
The D-backs have had Bauer on a strict pitch count this season, never letting him get much over 100 pitches.
“That guy has some fire in his belly and he is a perfectionist, which is going to make him successful,” Reno manager and longtime major leaguer Brett Butler said when the Aces were in Tucson two weeks ago.
“Could he go up and win a ballgame in the big leagues? There is no doubt in my mind he could. He’s got big-league stuff right now. The one thing that he needs to be doing is he needs to manage the game a little bit better.”
Bauer made seven starts in the minors after signing for a $4.3 million bonus last July, going 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA. He had 43 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings and finished the season with Southern Division champion Mobile in Class AA.
Bauer, 21, broke Mark Prior’s Pac-12 season strikeout record with 203 at UCLA last year, when he was 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA. He was 38-4 with a 2.36 ERA and 460 strikeouts in three seasons at UCLA, setting school records for victories and strikeouts.