DETROIT — Terry Francona talked a lot about Trevor Bauer on Saturday, all of it upbeat.
Francona is rarely publicly critical of his players, but he definitely seems taken with the potential of the Indians 22-year-old pitcher. And he spent a fair portion of his pregame interview going in-depth on the guy the Indians acquired in the Shin-Soo Choo trade.
“I think,” Francona said, “this guy is going to be what we’re looking for.”
As in a young, talented starter with excellent movement on a variety of pitches. Bauer will start the second game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Yankees, which makes three “spot” starts for him this season. He was optioned back to AAA right after the first two, and no doubt will be after Monday as well. The team feels he needs more time to develop before being a regular starter.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti visited with Bauer this past week in Columbus, and part of the conversation was to make sure the up-and-down was not bothering him.
“I think it’s good for his development as long as he doesn’t view it as an interruption,” Francona said.
Francona appreciates talking with Bauer because there’s little malarkey (as Joe Biden might say). After Bauer’s second start, Francona sat him down and asked what he got out of it. Bauer admitted he couldn’t walk the leadoff hitter so often, then addressed how to fix it.
“When you talk to him … man … he’s got great answers,” said Francona, who then revealed a glimpse into his managing philosophy when he explained how he addressed the leadoff-walk issue.
“It’s fundamentally backward to say, ‘I don’t want to walk them,’” Francona said. “It’s, ‘OK how are we going to get to a point where you’re attacking hitters, from the get-go?’
“And he gets that.”
Bauer has a fastball that can hit 95 and a changeup that goes 75-80. The difference in speeds is one of his advantages, but he said he can throw 18 varieties of pitches.
He also is a competitive cuss.
In his first start on April 6, he walked the first four hitters he faced, but stayed in for five innings and gave up three runs.
“We were in the dugout thinking we’d have to get somebody up throwing and go to the bullpen for eight innings,” Francona said. “To that kid’s credit he stayed out there for five innings and didn’t give in. That showed me a lot.”
In his second start May 3 he walked six, but gave up one hit and no runs in five innings.
“The second outing, you see all the stuff,” Francona said.
The Indians want him to gain better control of his fastball, to throw it for more strikes. He has so many good pitches, Francona thinks he can get away with missing some, just not as often as he has been.
The team also expects Bauer to grow and get stronger. Francona said Bauer has only worked on his conditioning for two years because nobody in the past gave him a reason that made sense to him.
“Now he does,” Francona said. “So now he gets after it. He’s probably a little bit behind in that area, but that’s what’s exciting. Because as he grows and gets stronger, it’s gonna get better.”
And Francona added he has no issue with Bauer needing explanations.
“When you talk to him you need to have a reason for saying something,” Francona said. “I think we should have that for everybody.”
To that end, Francona said he and the team have no issue with Bauer’s workout regimen, or his pregame routine that has him throwing balls across the outfield. Francona points out that Bauer uses a plyometric stretching gizmo (that’s a technical term, though Francona called it “a black thing” as he made curl motions) that helps him loosen and strengthen his arm.
“It makes him feel good about his arm, which makes him confident,” Francona said. “I’m glad. You want pitchers to be in a routine because that brings consistency.”
Bauer clearly is a key part of the Indians future — the team simply has to decide when he’s ready for the majors on a regular basis.
“I might be the high guy on him,” Francona said. “Everybody has (their) opinion on players.”
As he spoke, Marty Schottenheimer came to mind. Because Francona definitely had a gleam (men) about Bauer.