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Reliance on fastball, curve working for Bauer

Righty throwing more four-seamers, curveballs, with positive results
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer had no intention of budging. With a pair of runners in scoring position and two outs in the sixth inning on Wednesday night, Rangers left fielder Nomar Mazara was going to have to beat his best weapon. Bauer fired his curveball over and over until Mazara finally pounded the sixth one into the ground for an out.

"That's my best pitch, and he traditionally performs poorly on it," Bauer said after Cleveland's 5-3 win at Progressive Field. "Also, in that situation, if I walk him, I'm not concerned about it."

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CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer had no intention of budging. With a pair of runners in scoring position and two outs in the sixth inning on Wednesday night, Rangers left fielder Nomar Mazara was going to have to beat his best weapon. Bauer fired his curveball over and over until Mazara finally pounded the sixth one into the ground for an out.

"That's my best pitch, and he traditionally performs poorly on it," Bauer said after Cleveland's 5-3 win at Progressive Field. "Also, in that situation, if I walk him, I'm not concerned about it."

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There are a few takeaways from those comments by the Indians starter. First and foremost, Bauer's confidence -- seemingly growing by the start of late -- was on full display. It also showed that Bauer is continuing to merge pitching to a scouting report with sticking with his own strengths.

Over the past month, Bauer has narrowed his arsenal to a pair of primary pitches -- four-seamer and curve -- and the results have been more than encouraging. That trend continued against Texas, which saw 44 four-seam fastballs and 31 curves from the righty, accounting for 73 percent of his 103 offerings on the night. The result was one run allowed over 6 1/3 innings for Bauer.

Indians manager Terry Francona has enjoyed Bauer's evolving approach this season, especially the improved effectiveness of the four-seamer.

Tweet from @Indians: Trev was in the zone.He allowed just four hits and one run to get his seventh win. pic.twitter.com/fpagDs93ty

"I'm glad," Francona said. "Because, with the arm he has, when he uses his fastball to different parts of the plate, it makes him a much better pitcher. Like I said, he may give a different way of explaining it, but that is such an effective weapon for him."

The curve usage is what has really jumped out, though.

Roughly a month ago, Bauer and the rest of Cleveland's starters met with pitching coach Mickey Callaway to go over the group's struggles out of the gate this year. They went through each pitcher and discussed what could be done to improve their production. Both ace Corey Kluber and Bauer began leaning heavily on their curves.

Per Statcast™, here is a breakdown of Bauer's pitch use this season:

Before May 30
Four-seam: 35.4 percent
Curveball: 22.7 percent
Two-seam: 20.5 percent
Cutter: 12.7 percent
Changeup: 8.6 percent

Since May 30
Four-seam: 41.2 percent
Curveball: 35.3 percent
Two-seam: 10.1 percent
Cutter: 7.5 percent
Changeup: 5.8 percent

"There are a lot of things that kind of led to it," Bauer said. "I've always felt like I was most effective when I throw like 40-50 percent fastballs and use more off-speed stuff. But when I was doing that early in the year -- my cutter and my changeup are hard, so they're just kind of like slightly slower fastballs -- I didn't really have an off-speed pitch besides my curveball. So, all those things combined."

Indians catcher Roberto Perez has been behind the plate for each of Bauer's starts this season, and he played a role in convincing the pitcher to increase his use of the four-seamer and curve. Back on May 30, they put the practice into play and Bauer struck out 14 A's hitters that night. Including that outing, Bauer has a 3.82 ERA in his last seven turns, compared to a 6.30 ERA in his first nine outings.

"That's probably his best pitch after his fastball," Perez said. "I kind of talked to him, because it's huge for him. If he throws it early for strikes, then guys are going to chase with two strikes. We've been talking a lot, trying to get on the same page every time. I mean, we've been using it a lot. They don't do a lot of damage on his curveball. It's been working. It's good for him."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Cleveland Indians, Trevor Bauer