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Bauer enters offseason on high note

Righty fires 7 sharp innings in return to Tribe's rotation

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer used his final seven innings of the season to help erase the memory of a sour September. The young pitcher returned from his temporary relegation to the Indians' relief corps and turned in a solid outing against the Twins on Thursday night.

For Cleveland, the end result was a 4-2 loss. For Bauer, it was a better way to begin his winter.

"It's definitely nice to finish on a positive note," Bauer said. "Personally, it can feel good mentally going into the offseason."

Cleveland had a slot in the rotation open after rain forced the Twins and Tribe to play a doubleheader on Wednesday. Indians manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway considered having Bauer work in Sunday's season finale, but instead rearranged the starting staff in order to start the righty on Thursday.

Bauer responded with seven innings in which he allowed one run on just two hits -- a pair of doubles in the fourth inning. Before Joe Mauer's two-base hit in the fourth, Bauer held the Twins to an 0-for-10 showing with a pair of double-play grounders out of the gates. After the pitcher gave up an RBI double to Trevor Plouffe that plated Hunter, Minnesota went 0-for-10 against him again.

Video: [email protected]: Plouffe doubles in Mauer, Twins take lead

Bauer ended with three strikeouts, three walks and 92 pitches (54 strikes).

"I thought he did a really good job, and he's been through a lot the last month," Francona said. "For him to go out like that, I think it's certainly really on a positive note. You could tell he was trying to throw his fastball down and away, down, and then, when he did come in, certainly [he was] very effective. That was good to see."

Working down in the strike zone first -- before pitching up and in by design -- has been something the Indians have tried to get Bauer to focus on over the past couple of months. It was a problem area over Bauer's past seven starts, in which he posted a 7.63 ERA with an .830 opponents' OPS through Sept. 13. After that rough stretch, the Tribe moved Bauer to the bullpen.

Against the Twins, Bauer showed improvement in his approach.

"The most important thing was he was being aggressive with the fastball," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. "He wasn't shaking [off signs] like he normally does. He was pounding the zone with cutters. They laid off a lot of breaking balls -- good breaking balls -- but he battled and went through it."

Video: [email protected]: Francona on loss, Bauer's performance

Bauer's year was a tale of two seasons.

The 24-year-old turned in a 2.94 ERA in his first 11 starts, but then posted a 5.99 ERA in his next 18 turns. On the season, though, Bauer set career bests in innings (176), strikeouts (170), wins (11) and WHIP (1.31). In light of those milestones at such a young age, Francona hopes Bauer goes into the offseason with his head high.

"I think if you ask him, he's going to be disappointed," Francona said. "I think that because the last month's been tough. I hope he doesn't lose sight of the fact that I think he threw [176] innings ... and has room to grow. I think he knows that and I know we know that."

In the wake of his final start, Bauer focused on that aspect of his first full season in the Majors.

"It was a big step in the right direction for me," Bauer said. "Obviously, there's some things that I need to clean up. But, I've won more games than I have before. I had more really high quality outings. ... So, that end is definitely going in the right direction, and I look at that as a positive.

"Obviously I can be better, so I'm going to work hard on doing that. But, I'm going the right way."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Cleveland Indians, Trevor Bauer