Trevor Bauer pitched with one eye again.
Only this time, it wasn’t intentional.
“So, the first inning, my right eye wasn't really like focusing well, for whatever reason,” the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner said after starting Thursday’s 4-4 tie against the Mariners. “I did some CO2 exhalation stuff and kind of locked that back in. I’m not sure if it was the lighting or what it was, but I felt like my head was swimming.”
Bauer threw 26 pitches in the first inning, including 11 for strikes. He hit a batter and walked three. The Dodgers rolled the inning over with the bases loaded and the Mariners up, 1-0. The pitcher said his delivery in the first frame was out of whack because he was trying to throw too hard to start the game. He added that his legs were tired from sprints Wednesday.
“It’s just part of Spring Training and getting the body to ready to go,” he said.
Bauer, who intentionally pitched with one eye closed against the Padres to challenge himself and make himself uncomfortable, said he closes his eye to regain focus when it happens.
“It’s not concerning at all,” Bauer said. “It’s happened to me before. It just hasn’t happened to me in Spring Training before, but it’s not concerning at all.”
The right-hander was charged with a pair of hits in the second inning, including a ground-rule double to center field by Jake Fraley. He was more efficient in his final two innings of work. In all, he was charged with one run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He walked four batters and recorded four strikeouts in the 65-pitch outing.
“It's Spring Training, so not too worried about it, but what I'm pleased with is that I was able to lock it in after [the first inning] and get back in a groove,” Bauer said. “Second inning was a little bit shaky as well, but by the third and the fourth, I locked in pretty well and felt like I had better command and a better feel of the game and was kind of getting on a roll. So, I’m happy with that part of it for sure.”
Overall, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was pleased with the starter’s outing. He was happy to see Bauer get up and down four times, increase his pitch count and build stamina.
“Tonight, he just couldn't find his rhythm, or his delivery wasn't synced up consistent,” Roberts said. “But he knows what he's doing out there.”
Santana in the mix
Reliever Dennis Santana is making a strong pitch for a spot on the Opening Day roster.
“I worked hard in the offseason. I spent a lot of time at the gym and ate a lot,” Santana said in Spanish. “I hope this is a year that I can demonstrate what I have.”
So far this spring, Santana has allowed one hit in four scoreless innings while showing a fastball that’s hovered in the 95-97 mph range. The right-hander could make the roster as a multi-inning reliever, especially with Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly still on the mend. His biggest competition for a spot in the bullpen is non-roster invitee Jimmy Nelson.
Here’s why Santana remains a viable option: Last season, he threw more than one inning in seven of his 12 appearances for the Dodgers. In all, he went 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA, with 18 strikeouts and seven walks in 17 innings in 2020. He still has one option remaining, which gives the club some roster flexibility if it chooses to go in a different direction.
“My main goal is to make the Opening Day roster and stay in the big leagues for years and years,” he said.
Santana, who spent the offseason in Arizona, estimates he gained 15 pounds during the winter by spending most of his time in the gym. He supplemented his diet with lots of Dominican food and Mexican favorites like birria tacos. His arm feels strong and he’s as confident as he has ever been.
“I’m more mature. I know what to do,” Santana said. “I feel good. I believe in myself.”
Roberts on Minors changes
Various levels of Minor Leagues will be a testing ground for a variety of experimental playing rules aimed at creating more balls in play and action on the basepaths, improving the pace and length of games and reducing player injuries, Major League Baseball announced Thursday.
Among the changes is a requirement that all four infielders have their cleats within the outer boundary of the infield dirt when the pitch is delivered. The goal of the defensive position restriction is higher batting average on balls in play.
“I do like the way [MLB is] being aggressive in if there's thoughts that Major League Baseball wants to implement and try to make it happen as soon as possible to see how it plays out,” Roberts said. “I do think that we will get more intel once the Double-A season is played out. And as far as my thoughts on the shift or no shift, I really don't have any preference. I really don't. Whatever is implemented, I'm all for.”
The Dodgers led the Major Leagues with 1,209 shifts in 2,167 plate appearances. Roberts reiterated that he’s all for “the best interest of the game.”
“Within those parameters, we're going to do everything we can to get to gain that competitive advantage within the rules,” the manager said. “I think that we shift as aggressive as anyone and we convert balls in play into outs.”
• Catcher Keibert Ruiz, who was delayed to camp because of visa issues, will appear in his first games of spring Friday and Saturday, Roberts said.