I can see it now: The Arizona Diamondbacks appearing this summer on Fox. And the pregame show — the entire pregame show — consisting of right-hander Trevor Bauer’s warmup routine.
Bauer, 21, is that unique, that refreshing, that compelling. His long-toss session before his start Friday was shorter than his usual pole-to-pole extravaganza. But a number of Seattle Mariners lined up along the third-base line, watching in amazement.
“So strange. So, so strange,” Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan said, smiling in wonder. “Everyone has got their routines and stuff. But he was almost in our bullpen, throwing into their bullpen. That’s crazy.”
Actually, it’s not.
Nothing Bauer does is crazy.
Not the one-hour warmup he performs before boarding the team bus for road games in game spring training.
Not the yoga-like stretches and hip mobility exercises that he does before his long-toss sessions.
Not even the crow-hop he takes before his first warmup pitch every inning — or the resulting 100-plus mph fastball that may or may not sail over the catcher’s head.
If Bauer were simply a freak show, the Diamondbacks would not have selected him third overall out of UCLA in last year’s draft. Nor would they consider him a candidate for their Opening Day rotation even though he has thrown only 25 2/3 professional innings.
No, Bauer is more brainy than quirky, offering lengthy, detailed explanations for each one of his unusual training methods. You might expect that he would irritate his teammates, coaches and manager Kirk Gibson. But actually, they find him endearing.
Bauer not only is engaging and self-deprecating, but also open and receptive to instruction, according to pitching coach Charles Nagy.
Then again, it helps that Bauer throws 92 to 95 mph and boasts nine different pitches in his repertoire, including — ahem — a dot slider, circle slider and reverse slider.
What’s not to love?
Bauer, a native of Southern California, said he began developing his warmup routine at age 14, when he first visited the Texas Baseball Ranch.
The weather was hot. Bauer felt extremely loose. Ron Wolforth, who founded the ranch in 2003, taught Bauer the routine to help him replicate that feeling.
The idea behind all the stretching and throwing, Bauer said, is to awaken, loosen and sync his muscles, reducing the stress on his elbow and shoulder.
Bauer starts his long-toss session at a reasonable distance, throwing at low intensity. He then slowly moves back, increasing his intensity, but continuing to throw the ball on a high arc to minimize any strain.
Eventually he fires one or two balls at high intensity from long distance, “just for fun.” Then, as he walks back to the catcher, he starts throwing more on a line, becoming more explosive. Once he gets close, he throws quite hard, fastballs, sliders, curves, splits, sinkers, the works.
Yes, he knows opponents and fans are watching.
“I was used to that six years ago when I would throw long-toss in the park and people walking their dogs would go by and be like . . . what are you doing?” Bauer said. “It’s kind of a common theme when I throw.”
Diamondbacks catcher Henry Blanco was Bauer’s long-toss partner before the pitcher’s first spring-training start. When the distances got too long for Blanco to return Bauer’s throws, bullpen catcher Jeff Motuzas moved to center field to serve as a relay man.
On Friday, for Bauer’s second start, Motuzas was the catcher. Bauer would reach him on the fly from hundreds of feet away. Motuzas tried to keep pace, but said after the game, “My arm’s dead right now. I just caught four other guys. It was a struggle just to get the ball back to them.”
Of course, Bauer is not done after he is finished playing long-toss. He then heads to the bullpen for his normal warmup.
“I usually throw about 46 pitches, not that I count,” he said, smiling. “In college, everyone tracks pitches in the ‘pen. I asked one day, ‘Just out of curiosity, how many (pitches did I throw)?’ He said 46. My (guess) was 47, so I thought that was pretty close.
“The next time I asked, ‘How many did I throw today?’ It was 46. Three or four outings in a row, I threw 46. I said, ‘Wow, I’m remarkably consistent without even trying.’ Apparently 46 pitches and I feel loose. I only threw 38 today. Maybe that’s the reason I got lit up, I don’t know.”
Actually, Bauer got the “win” despite allowing two runs in three innings, striking out two, walking none. It might not have been his best day, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge was still talking afterward about the gorgeous 3-2 breaking ball that Bauer threw Chone Figgins with two outs in the first.
A called strike three.
Sports Illustrated did a lengthy feature on Bauer last August headlined, “Trevor Bauer will not be babied.” The article portrayed Bauer as a model for the next wave of young pitchers, throwing constantly to keep his arm strong.
True to form, Bauer showed up at the Diamondbacks’ training facility on Thursday, even though the team had the day off. Bauer hates not working his arm the day before he pitches. So, he threw on his own.
“I went to the field and got three baseballs and stood at one end of the cage and threw ‘em that way, then walked over there and threw ‘em back, did the same thing,” Bauer said. “I was out there throwing for about 20-30 minutes, having fun.”
But with a purpose. Always with a purpose.
Consider Bauer’s rationale for the crow-hop before his first warmup pitch each inning.
“I find it fun for the fans,” he said. “I get to throw the ball anywhere and they get to rag me and hey, it’s a good time for all of us.
“No, that started also back when I was 14. It was just a way of reminding my body, ‘We’re trying to be explosive here.’ And (it) also is the mindset of going out there and being aggressive and really attacking the plate.”
Isometric exercises. Hip mobility exercises. A six-foot shoulder tube. Even the music that blares on Bauer’s headphones to help him get into a rhythm as he warms up.
Bauer said it’s all part of his plan.
The Diamondbacks are fine with most of it, but Gibson asked Bauer to stop wearing the headphones, depriving the pitcher of his playlist of 15-20 songs by Eminem, Disturbed, Parkway Drive, Killswitch Engage — “a whole bunch of metal.”
Bauer mused that he might resume wearing his headphones later in his career, “sneak it by some people.” The kid, though, knows his place. He caught himself quickly, saying, “No, we’ll see. That’s for later days.”
For the Diamondbacks, the more immediate problem will be finding Bauer a steady long-toss partner once he reaches the majors.
Motuzas said he would face an all-or-nothing outcome if he had to throw with Bauer for 35 starts.
“It would be one of two things,” Motuzas said. “Either I would blow out my shoulder, or my arm would be in the best shape it’s ever been.”