Bauer focused on improving body language on mound
Righty, enjoying stellar start to season, realizes he may have been misunderstood in past
CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer knows that he might have been misunderstood at times in the past. By teammates. By coaches. By umpires. The young Indians pitcher realizes now that his body language on the hill may have played a role in the mixed signals.
Over the offseason and through Spring Training, Bauer worked extensively on fine-tuning his pitches, and he also focused on the mental side of his game. Part of that has included reminding himself to hone in on the elements that are under his control, and not reacting negatively when things do not go as planned on the field.
"I'm trying to send the appropriate message with my body language," Bauer said. "Not only to my teammates and to the opposing team, but also for me. I'm trying to stay locked into that approach mentally that whatever has happened is out of my control. Whatever is going to happen is out of my control. I can just make this next pitch and try to focus in on that. And I think I've done a decent job of it."
Cleveland ace Corey Kluber might be the blueprint for that approach.
In the clubhouse, Kluber is stoic and soft-spoken. On the field, if a call does not go his way or a hitter takes advantage of a pitch, the right-hander typically remains unfazed. Watching Kluber throughout a game, it is hard to tell by his body language when he has been successful or encountered a rough patch.
Kluber has seen improvement from Bauer in that regard, too.
"That's just part of maturing, and obviously, he's still really young," Kluber said. "As far as the body language, he's done a really good job of getting better with that. I think he knew that was something he had to work on. I think when you're comfortable, it makes it a lot easier to just go out there and focus on pitching, instead of worrying about all that other stuff."
Indians manager Terry Francona has also noticed a difference in Bauer's manner on the mound.
"If he gets mad, he waits until he gets to the dugout," Francona said. "He doesn't do it out on the field. He competes while he's out there, and then he might be frustrated after the inning. But during the inning, he doesn't give in, and he competes. I think he's done a real good job on that."
Bauer added that he knows being even-keeled on the mound can also help him avoid a situation where an umpire thinks he's angry over a call.
"It's very rare that I'm upset with an umpire," Bauer said. "It might appear that I am sometimes -- because I'm upset with myself -- in how I snap at a ball, or I'll kind of shake my head or whatever. That's more internal frustration with the fact that I didn't execute that pitch. But I'm aware that that can be construed differently by the umpires, so that's another positive to sending a correct message with my body language."
In the clubhouse, Bauer has also become more approachable and social, both with his teammates and reporters.
"He's more comfortable around guys now," Kluber said. "I think he realizes that guys in here don't really care if you're different. That may not have necessarily been the case for him in the past."
Through two starts this season -- his first Major League campaign in an Opening Day rotation -- the 24-year-old Bauer has two wins, a 1.50 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. The right-hander opened his season with nine consecutive no-hit innings, which is a feat that had not been accomplished by a Cleveland starter since 1940 (Bob Feller).
It has been a positive start for Bauer, who has also walked a league-high nine batters.
"I definitely have a ways to go," he said. "It's a work in progress, and I'm consciously trying to improve."