CLEVELAND -- The video quickly spread across social media earlier this month. It showed Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, wearing black workout shorts and a dark navy top, racing forward, then doing a few quick stutter steps before unleashing a baseball into a net with a few onlookers nearby.On the wall,
CLEVELAND -- The video quickly spread across social media earlier this month. It showed Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, wearing black workout shorts and a dark navy top, racing forward, then doing a few quick stutter steps before unleashing a baseball into a net with a few onlookers nearby.
On the wall, a yellow radar gun reading flashed: 116.9.
Yes, that is in miles per hour. Every offseason, Bauer heads to Driveline Baseball outside Seattle and works through a rigorous program, which includes this jaw-dropping pull-down drill. That throw, in particular, was a facility record for velocity with a 3-ounce training ball. The video was posted by @DrivelineBB and soon spread across the internet to news outlets and fans.
Bauer's Twitter account was soon flooded with messages.
"Mostly, just people telling me I'm going to injure myself," Bauer said with a smirk Friday, when he was in Cleveland for Tribe Fest. "[I heard from] all the guys online who know infinitely more about the subject than I do. That was fun. Always is."
Bauer is able to laugh off such criticism, because the right-hander knows there is a fine-tuned method behind what looks on the surface to be madness. That aggressive pull-down drill is actually a part of Bauer's warmup routine for live at-bat sessions. This winter, the pitcher estimates that he has already logged 30 innings of work to hitters with his primary objective being to hone a revamped slider.
During his winter workouts against batters, Bauer has limited his repertoire to his fastball and the new slurve. Once he begins pitching in a Spring Training setting -- Cleveland's pitchers and catchers report to Arizona on Feb. 14 -- he will begin mixing in his curveball, cutter and changeup. This winter, Bauer restructured his lifting routine, brought more tech devices to Driveline to better analyze his pitches and continued to focus on velocity training and mechanics.
"I'm always trying to find an incremental way to get better," Bauer said.
Last season, Bauer pieced together his best overall campaign in the Majors, going 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and 196 strikeouts against 60 walks in 176 1/3 innings. The right-hander was particularly impressive down the stretch, posting a 10-1 record with a 2.60 ERA and 91 strikeouts vs. 23 walks in 83 innings across his final 14 appearances. That sample begins with his July 21 start against the Blue Jays, and there is a reason for drawing a line at that point in his game log.
It was during that outing against Toronto that Bauer ditched his splitter -- an offering he worked on last winter -- and began throwing a modified slider. Using his cutter grip, the pitcher repositioned his thumb higher on the ball "to counteract inertial forces." Translation: Bauer wanted a breaking ball that had more depth and run than the cutter, but was more reliable for targeting the lower-third of the strike zone. That was the original plan for the splitter, but it did not work how Bauer hoped.
Consider that adjustment a bit of in-season survival on Bauer's part. The slider grip was not comfortable, making it hard to command, but the pitch helped balance the movement off his fastballs, curve and changeup. The pitch mix was close to what Bauer had spent the previous few years trying to find, and the results down the stretch were impressive.
"I needed something besides fastball-curveball that I could throw down in the zone," Bauer said. "That's what [the slider] was: An on-the-fly adjustment to patch a hole, and use the offseason to high-grade what I actually want that pitch to be."
So, Bauer spent this winter trying to improve upon that success by finding a more comfortable version of the pitch.
"The modified slider has been nixed," Bauer said. "I've replaced it with what hopefully will have a similar movement profile to a Marcus Stroman curveball or a Corey Kluber slurve. All the info that I have on it so far says that it profiles very similar to those two. Obviously, we'll see once I get up against a hitter in a game."
Until then, Bauer will continue facing batters in simulated settings, and warming up with those high-octane pull-down pitches.
"It's one of the more fun parts of training," Bauer said.
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 Facebook.