CLEVELAND -- It had been 422 days since Jake Bauers last sported a Minor League uniform. But on Aug. 1, he was shipped down to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes on the Indians’ roster.
When Tyler Naquin went down with an ACL tear in Tampa Bay on Friday, though, the Tribe needed another outfielder, and it was Bauers who got the callup. In his first start back on Sunday, he recorded a double. In his first at-bat back at Progressive Field on Monday, he launched his first career pinch-hit homer in the Indians’ 11-3 victory over the White Sox.
“That’s big time,” Bauers said. “It felt good. I think mainly it just feels good to be back and contributing. I know I take pride in kind of being a winning type of baseball player. So to feel like I’m not doing that and not contributing, it’s not an easy time. So, to be back, to contribute, it’s all it’s really about for me and it feels good.”
When a player gets demoted, especially one who had been up in the big leagues for more than a full season straight, it can be hard for him to keep a positive attitude. But Indians manager Terry Francona said that the reports on Bauers noted how great his energy had been with the Clippers. That enthusiasm has started to show now that he’s back with the Indians.
“That’s the one thing you try to impress upon somebody when they go back,” Francona said just before Bauers was recalled. “Hey, be part of what they’re doing. Knowing you want to be here. But get something out of it. Don’t let the disappointment of getting sent back get in the way of your development. Because we think this kid’s going to be a good player. He’s young. Sometimes you’ve gotta go back and finish some of the development.”
In 24 games at Triple-A, Bauers hit .247 with a .776 OPS, three homers and 15 RBIs. But the 23-year-old was searching for more than just stats with his trip down to the Minors.
“It was good to kind of go down and find myself again,” Bauers said. “Really just figure out who I am as a baseball player -- stealing bases, driving the ball, driving in runs. So hopefully, that continues to carry over. It’s off to a pretty good start and hopefully, we keep winning ballgames.”
It’s only been a small sample size, but the Indians have been pleased with what they’ve seen from Bauers since rejoining the squad. He may have only had one hit in Sunday’s series finale at Tropicana Field, but one of the two outs he made was a 109.5 mph lineout. Then, he added the homer and drew a walk on Monday.
The long ball came after Chicago’s left-handed starter Ross Detwiler was pulled in the third inning. Because Jordan Luplow (right hamstring strain) was just activated off the injured list and had only a few Minor League rehab games under his belt, the Indians are planning to play the 25-year-old only when there’s a lefty on the mound. When Carson Fulmer came on in relief, that brought Bauers on to pinch-hit.
“That was really good,” Francona said. “If we can get that kind of production, with Luplow facing lefties, him facing righties. You combine them both, we gotta chance to maybe do some things. That gets exciting.”
Bauers’ blast was one part of a big offensive night for the Tribe that included a bases-clearing double in the first from Reyes and a homer by Carlos Santana in a much-needed victory after getting swept by Tampa Bay over the weekend.
“We needed a win today,” Indians starter Aaron Civale said. “All around, we needed to get the win today. The offense came through huge.”