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Bauer joins Tribe fold with clean slate

CLEVELAND -- The Indians are not overly concerned with Trevor Bauer's past. All Cleveland cares about is the young pitcher's future, which has the potential to be bright, given his ability to both throw a baseball and study the intricate physics behind his chosen profession.

Being traded to the Indians in December offered Bauer a clean slate. All the issues over his unique warmup routine, the reports of his inability to mesh with his Arizona teammates, the questions about his willingness to listen or try something new, it can all be pushed aside now that Cleveland is providing the prospect with a new environment.

"If he aggravated somebody else on another team, I don't care," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's got a fresh start."

Bauer is concerned about his past, though. Sitting in an interview room outside the Indians' clubhouse at Progressive Field on Wednesday, the pitcher explained how he hopes to step into that room smarter for what took place last season in the desert. Bauer will have a crack at Cleveland's rotation this spring, and he wants to be better prepared for his next trip to The Show.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity and to get going with it," Bauer said in his first interview since being traded to the Indians. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

As analytical as he is with his mechanics -- such is the life of an engineer's son -- Bauer is also interested in human behavior. More to the point, he is trying to learn how he wound up in a situation similar to high school, when he felt his shyness was confused with arrogance. Back then, Bauer says he rarely had the nerve to strike up conversations.

It was not until his final year at UCLA -- during a chat with a friend from his former high school -- that he learned about his reputation.

With the D-backs, all Bauer wanted to do was belong, so he acted the way he heard rookies were supposed to act -- he tried to shut up and listen. In his effort not to get in anyone's way, the pitcher actually stepped on some toes. He heard he was being viewed as arrogant and stubborn. The last thing Bauer wants is for those labels to follow him throughout what could be a promising career.

Rather than run from these issues, Bauer dove in head first. After the season ended, the pitcher called some of his Arizona teammates, searching for where he went wrong in his first taste of the big leagues. Bauer asked for honesty, and he got it. At some points, what he heard hurt, but he feels he has learned a lot from the experience.

"I just kind of wanted to reach out and get some opinions on it," Bauer said, "It was really beneficial for me to hear. It wasn't easy to hear in a lot of ways, but it was beneficial for me to hear kind of the perception of me: 'You do this, and it's perceived this way.'"

The Indians have taken steps to show Bauer that the only way they are perceiving him is as an integral piece to their young core.

On Dec. 11, Cleveland teamed with Arizona and Cincinnati to pull off one of the winter's biggest trades: a nine-player swap centered around right fielder Shin-Soo Choo going to Cincinnati and Bauer coming to the Tribe. As part of the deal, the Indians also landed outfielder Drew Stubbs (from the Reds) and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw (both from the D-backs).

For Cleveland, which dealt two of its top pitching prospects (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White) to the Rockies two seasons ago to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, this was a chance to add a young impact arm to the fold. Bauer was a first-round pick in 2011, soared through the Minor League ranks and has a repertoire that potentially portends big league stardom.

Bauer throws as many as eight pitches, though rare is the outing in which he will feature the entire slate. The right-hander sits around 94-96 mph with his four-seam fastball and has two variations each of a changeup, curveball and slider. Bauer also wields a reverse slider, which he described as having similar action and speed as a left-hander's cut fastball.

In 29 career Minor League starts, Bauer has gone 13-4 with a 3.00 ERA, piling up 200 strikeouts against 73 walks in 156 innings. Last year, he went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, striking out 157 in 130 1/3 innings.

"There's a lot to like," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "He's got a great arsenal of stuff. He's got a above-average to well-above-average fastball and great secondary stuff. And, as I've said, he's really committed to being the best pitcher he can be. He'll work and be diligent in doing that."

Antonetti and Francona saw that firsthand on Monday, when they traveled to Texas to watch the 21-year-old Bauer run through a typical day of offseason training. It gave the GM and manager a chance to sit down and talk with the pitcher, and it also afforded them the opportunity to witness and discuss his unusual pregame program.

Bauer was appreciative of the personal visit.

"It was really enjoyable," Bauer said. "It meant a lot to me that they'd come down and see what I do and get to know me and what makes me tick and what I enjoy and stuff like that. They're trying to at least see [my routine] for themselves first, and understand it, before they make any judgment on it, which is really all I could expect or want. Not everyone is going to like my routine."

Fans will almost surely enjoy watching Bauer's warmup ritual, which can sometimes offer as much of a show as the final rounds of batting practice.

Bauer said he might start as early as 80 minutes before a game's first pitch, setting aside time for a series of workout techniques aimed at getting him warm. The most glaring of his rituals is an extreme form of long toss, working his way up to throwing at a distance of more than 400 feet on occasion. Bauer uses the outfield space between foul poles.

"If it's 330 feet down the lines," Bauer said, "that's about 469 feet between the poles."

It's actually 466.69 feet, but it is clear that the pitcher calculated the numbers in the past.

"My routine is always changing," he said. "The one constant in it is I know there's a certain feel that I have where I know I'm ready to go. When I get that feel, I know I'm ready to step on a mound and get ready to pitch in a game."

Last season, Bauer said he injured his right groin in his second outing of the season. The right-hander pitched through it and still managed to put up solid numbers against Minor League hitters, but found he could not do the same in the big leagues. In four starts with Arizona in June and July, Bauer went 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA, giving up 13 runs on 14 hits with 13 walks in 16 1/3 innings.

Bauer was criticized for shaking off signs from D-backs catcher Miguel Montero during his outings, and the young pitcher's routine was scrutinized.

"I think, overall, there's just too much focus on that my routine caused me to not perform well," Bauer said, "even though my routine has been a similar routine all the way through high school, all the way through college, all the way through the Minor Leagues, when I was having really good success. I think it was just kind of the easy thing to pinpoint and say, 'This is why he's struggling.'

"I don't really think it's the routine. It's just that I didn't pitch well. I was fighting through an injury that affected me quite a bit. At the end of the day, I just didn't throw enough strikes."

Antonetti is not worried about Bauer's warmup practices.

"I think a lot's been made of it," Antonetti said. "I don't think it's that big of a deal."

More or less, that is the stance the Indians appear to be taking with Bauer's past.

That has not stopped Bauer from trying to learn from everything that has taken place over the past year. Cleveland appreciates the way the pitcher has tackled the issue, and the D-backs were also impressed by the way Bauer was handling things this winter.

"He realizes he made mistakes, and I applaud that," D-backs president Derrick Hall said to reporters at a charity event earlier this winter. "That shows a tremendous amount of maturity on his part."

It might also just be the way the pitcher is wired.

"I just love knowing why things work the way they do," Bauer said. "I'm guilty of it in relationships, too. I'd be trying to figure out why does this person do this, 'Well let's see.' I have to remind myself that we're not machines. There's probably not a formula for why people do certain things."

Bauer included.

Cleveland Indians, Trevor Bauer