PHOENIX – Trevor Bauer had has to tweak his between-starts throwing program to adapt to the rhythm of a professional season.
Not that opposing hitters can tell.
Right-hander Bauer was considered the most major league-ready arm in the draft last June after a record-setting season at UCLA, and the first month of his first full season at Class AA Mobile has been marked by the same type of dominance.
Bauer is the D-backs’ No. 1 prospect as ranked by industry bible Baseball America, and he has looked it. He is 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 41 1/3 innings this season, and opponents are hitting .188 against him
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With a fastball that has touched 98 mph this season and a full mix of breaking pitches, Bauer was the first pitcher in the minor leagues to four, five and six victories.
After breaking Mark Prior’s Pac-12 season strikeout record last season, Bauer has 51 strikeouts in his first seven starts, an average of 11.1 per nine innings. If he is not overpowering hitters with his fastball, he is getting them to chase his curveball, his second-best pitch.
“I think he has four above-average pitches right now,” said Mike Bell, the D-backs’ director of player development.
The ever-analytical Bauer is fine with his progress, but he has some reservations about some of his early work.
“Sometimes stats can be misleading. I haven’t been locating the ball as well as well as I would like to,” Bauer said after BayBears right-hander Chase Anderson beat Jacksonville, 2-0, on Wednesday.
“It’s more in and out. Some nights you have good control of some pitches and not of others. I can do better. I’m getting to a lot of two-strike counts, but I’m not putting them away. I’m not setting up my pitches and disguising them as well early in the at-bats. Four- or five-pitch at-bats turn into six- or seven-pitch at-bats. Sometimes that turns into walks, which drives my pitch count up, and I don’t get to go as long as I want.”
Bauer has issued 25 walks, but Bell considers that a non-issue, more a byproduct of a pitcher with such high-end stuff that hitters cannot put the ball in play.
“I’m not concerned about that, because that’s who he is. He is going to be a high-pitch-count guy,” Bell said.
“He gets his strikeouts. He may walk some, but he has swing-and-miss stuff. He’s not a typical guy that you would want to talk about pitching to contact. You give a little. You take a little. I’m not taking that away from Trevor.”
Bauer gave up only one run in his first 22 1/3 innings, and in his last start gave up one hit in seven shutout innings, that when the first batter of the game hit a slider off the end of the bat for a looping single to left field. Bauer got out of that with a double-play grounder.
Oddly, perhaps, Bauer considers his worst statistical start the one in which he had his best stuff. He gave up eight hits and five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 7-1 loss to Mississippi on May 1 while striking out nine.
“Baseball is such an interesting game. Of the eight hits, only one ball was hit hard. That one turned into six runs. It’s one of those games where the statistics catch up to you,” Bauer said.
Bauer’s pregame stretching and throwing routine is unique, and he has taken that with him to Mobile, too, even though he has had to modify it. Because Bauer pitched once every seven days at UCLA, he threw two bullpen sessions between starts. Working every five days at Mobile, he has eliminated one bullpen.
“It’s been pretty seamless. My body feels great. My arm feels great,” Bauer said.
Bauer still does his extreme long-toss before games, basically foul pole to foul pole, and the D-backs have done nothing to discourage that.
“Not at all. He’s been throwing a lot since he was 12 year old,” Bell said. “It works for him, and I think it could work for other guys, too.”
AROUND THE HORN
A spring-training adjustment seems to have made a big difference for right-hander Barry Enright, who is off to a strong start at Class AAA Reno. At pitching coach Charles Nagy’s suggestion, Enright moved his setup from the third-base side of the rubber to directly in the middle, and he is 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA while playing home games in park that drastically favors hitters. “Barry is very comfortable with who he is right now,” Bell said. Eniright is reminiscent of the pitcher who made such a strong impression in the second half of 2010, when he threw five innings or more and gave up three runs or less in his first 12 major league starts for the D-backs.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs recorded his first victory of the season for Class AA Mobile Monday, giving up five hits and striking out seven in a 2-1 victory at Jacksonville. Skaggs’ has given up 30 hits in 32 1/3 innings, and his peripherals are staggering, 43 strikeouts against seven walks. Outfielder Alfredo Marte, signed out of the Domincan Republic at age 16, has raised his prospect status with eight homers and 25 RBI for the BayBears.
David Holmberg, another pitcher acquired in the 2010 trade deadline bonanza, has won his last two starts at Class A Visalia, and scouts report his velocity has increased a tick in his second full season in the organization. He is 3-3 with a 2.68 ERA, with 41 strikeouts in 37 innings.
Class A South Bend center fielder Ender Inciarte led the Midwest League with a .330 batting average and a .426 on-base percentage. Inciarte, who does not turn 22 until Oct. 29, is a speed player who often hits at the top of the order.
And with help from Stephen Drew and, soon, Chris Young, the D-backs extended spring training team had a 17-game winning streak. Arizona League manager Hector de la Cruz, Yakima manager Audo Vicente, Missoula manager Andy Green and short-season coordinator Luis Urueta are handing the team.