December 20, 2014

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Indians notes: Tribe sticking by enigmatic pitcher Trevor Bauer despite rough 2013 season

Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer throws during spring training practice. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer throws during spring training practice. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Indians displayed plenty of patience with enigmatic right-hander Trevor Bauer last year. They hope it pays off this season.

“I think you try to look at the big picture,” manager Terry Francona said of Bauer, who went 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA in four spot starts with the Indians last year. “With everything, you try to make decisions not based out of emotion but based on what’s best for our team. With a 22-, 23-year-old pitcher, the ceiling is very high. You have to step back sometimes and let him figure it out, certainly with help.

“I think we’re going to see dividends this year at some point. It may not be April 1, but at some point this year I think we’ll see dividends, and once he gets here and figures it out, he’s got the chance to be a dominating pitcher. That’s the idea anyway. And I think we all felt like this was the best way to get there. If we didn’t, we’d have done something different.”

Bauer, 23, ruffled some feathers during his debut season in Cleveland. Among other things, he pitched out of the stretch in a big league start without a runner on base. But rather than force Bauer to do things their way, the Indians gave him rope.

“We talked about it a lot,” Francona said of being more forceful with Bauer last year. “I don’t think we felt like we could have made it much better by the time we got into July and August.”

Bauer’s way didn’t work wonders in the minors last year, either. In 22 starts for Triple-A Columbus, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft was a pedestrian 6-7 with a 4.15 ERA.

The season on the brink caused Bauer to re-examine his approach. He eliminated portions of his quirky pregame routine and revamped his delivery. Until his outing Monday — two innings, seven runs on seven hits and two walks — in an 8-3 loss to the Angels, the changes appeared to be for the good.

“He’s throwing the ball real well. He wasn’t locating or working ahead today,” Francona said. “It’s not always going to be easy. Nobody’s going to remotely give up. We all still think there’s a good major league pitcher in there.”

Signing stuff
The Indians agreed to terms with 10 players (0-3 years MLB experience) on one-year contracts.

Among the names of note were second baseman Jason Kipnis, catcher Yan Gomes, right-handers Zach McAllister, Cody Allen and Carlos Carrasco and left-hander Nick Hagadone. Kipnis, an All-Star for the first time last year, made $509,000 in 2013.

With the signings, the Indians have their entire 40-man roster under contract.

Hot corner
It was a good day at third base for Carlos Santana, who handled a number of routine groundballs and made the throw on all of them. Both of Santana’s errors through six games were on throws.

Santana looks more comfortable daily at his new position, but Francona is far from ready to name him the starter at third.

“If I told you I knew what we were going to do at third base, I wouldn’t be telling you the truth,” he said.

College connection?
Francona — who has had a heavy hand in recruiting players to Cleveland, including Nick Swisher and John Axford — was told one of his players compared him to Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

“I don’t know how I feel about that,” Francona said. “I don’t want to see the Indians have any sanctions or anything like that … the NCAA coming down on us.”

Roundin’ third

  • Expanded instant replay was available but not used by the Indians and Angels on Monday. It will be available again Friday against the White Sox in Glendale.
  • Right-hander Vinnie Pestano hasn’t allowed a baserunner through three appearances. He has faced the minimum in each outing.
  • Cleveland lost Monday for the first time in 11 games.
  • The Indians will play a B game today against the White Sox in Goodyear. Right-hander Aaron Harang (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will start for Cleveland. Ryan Raburn, who has missed time with minor injuries sustained when he crashed into a wall Friday, will DH.
  • Today, 4:10 vs. Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Scottsdale). Masterson (0-0, 0.00) vs. Cahill (1-0, 9.95).

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.