8/20/2014 9:28 P.M. ET
Bauer working through early-inning issues
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor Bauer has been searching for a cure for his early-inning issues that stretch back well before this season with the Indians. Giving up early runs, followed by stretches of dominance as games progress, has been a trend throughout his amateur and professional career.
"I'm used to it," Bauer said. "It's been this way my whole life. I'm trying to figure it out. I'm giving my best. I don't know. I'll figure it out. I'm not worried about it."
The latest example came in Cleveland's 7-5 comeback win over the Twins on Tuesday night, when Bauer surrendered five runs to the first five batters he faced in the first inning. The right-hander then settled in, featured his fastball more as his outing lengthened, and retired 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced before the bullpen took over.
On the season, the 23-year-old Bauer now has given up 12 earned runs (the most of any inning) in the first, making for a bloated 5.68 ERA. He has surrendered 18 earned runs in the first inning (6.08 ERA) over the course of his brief big league career.
Asked about the issue on Wednesday, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said the problem is not as bad as it seems on the surface.
"When we ultimately looked at it," Callaway said, "like really looked at the numbers, his OPS against him and stuff like that is not as bad as later in the game. So, we all have this perception that he's really bad at the beginning of the game, but the numbers don't really show that."
As Callaway noted, hitters have posted a .711 OPS against Bauer in the first inning this year, marking the third-lowest showing among the first six innings for the pitcher. In the first three innings combined, Bauer has allowed a .716 OPS (57 innings), compared to a .750 OPS for the the fourth through the sixth (48 innings) and a 1.045 OPS for the seventh and eighth combined (6 2/3 innings).
Before each of his past three starts, Bauer has tried to simulate a game pace in his pregame bullpen session, pausing for around 15 seconds between throws. It worked for his outing on Aug. 13 against the D-backs, who managed only two runs in his eight innings. The technique was not as successful in the previous start on Aug. 8, when the Yankees struck for five runs in the first.
"I'm 1-2, 33 percent," Bauer quipped about the approach.
Callaway said it could simply be a case of the first inning getting in a young pitcher's head.
"Anything can become mental if it's talked about enough or thought too much about," Callaway said. "What we talked about [Wednesday] was, make a little bit different of an approach, as far as the way he's attacking hitters early in the game. Get more on the plate. Don't try to be so fine. Setting up more on the plate with the catcher and letting his stuff play a little bit better."
Gomes impressing Francona in all facets
MINNEAPOLIS -- If it were possible, Indians manager Terry Francona would probably pencil Yan Gomes' name into the lineup every single day. That is not how to handle an everyday catcher, though, and Gomes received a well-deserved day off from starting on Wednesday against the Twins.
Gomes has been a steady performer at the plate all season long, but the young catcher has been on a tear in the batter's box in the season's second half. Francona will never admit to be surprised by such a development.
"I think he's been pretty consistent, especially for a guy that swings a lot," Francona said. "He takes good care of himself. He's a strong kid and he's prepared for this. He wanted this opportunity. This is why we wanted him to be our catcher."
Entering Wednesday, the 26-year-old Gomes had turned in a .359/.383/.621 slash line with six home runs, nine doubles, 16 runs, 20 RBIs and a 1.005 OPS over his past 30 games for the Indians. According to Fangraphs.com, Gomes' 179 wRC+ (a weighted version of Runs Created where 100 is league average) in the second half ranked first in the American League.
Overall this season, Gomes has hit .285 with 17 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 53 RBIs and an .805 OPS through 108 games for the Tribe.
"Everything that he's done means a lot," Francona said. "His care of running a game, getting those pitchers through innings. And he's always sitting there with that power. He's just a good player."
Francona also reiterated that the Indians want Gomes to focus on his defense first, making any offensive contributions a bonus.
"He can go 0-for-4 and, if we're shaking hands [after a win], what he did was good enough," Francona said. "The priority is running the game and, for a younger catcher, he's taken to that very easily and very quickly. We love that."
Quote to note
"We're going to keep fighting. We're going to make the game close. We're not going to give up. That's one of the strengths of this team. As the game goes longer, we put together good at-bats, we get guys on. We may not always win it, but we make it close and give ourselves a chance."
--Bauer on the Indians and their playoff hopes moving forward.
• With two outs, a runner on second and the Indians holding a 6-5 lead in the sixth inning on Tuesday, Michael Bourn delivered an RBI single to left. On the play, Bourn intentionally ran too far beyond first base, forcing the Twins to cut off the throw from left field. That gave Tyler Holt ample time to score a key insurance run before Bourn was tagged out in a rundown.
"We'll take a trade-off there," Francona said. "We don't want to give away outs indiscriminately, but right there, any time the play is going to be bang-bang at the plate, we're going to take the run. That was the right play."
• Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall received a scheduled day off from starting for Wednesday's game against the Twins. Heading into the day, Chisenhall had posted a .176 average in August and was batting just .196 over his past 53 games, dating back to when his average stood at .393 on June 11.
"There have been times when Lonnie has looked tired lately," Francona said. "It will give us some balance off the bench. ... Lonnie has played a lot in the second half."
• Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley outfielder Bradley Zimmer was named the New York-Penn League's player of the week for the period of Aug. 11-17. Zimmer, who was Cleveland's top pick in the First-Year Player Draft in June, hit .524 (11-for-21) with one homer, two doubles and five RBIs in six games during that span.
• Class A Advanced Carolina left-hander Ryan Merritt allowed just one run over seven innings against Frederick on Tuesday to improve to 13-3 with a 2.49 ERA this season. Merritt is only the fourth Mudcats pitcher to record at least 13 wins in a season, and the first to do so since Robert Averette accomplished the feat in 2000.