Bauer cut the pinky finger on his pitching hand working on a drone last fall, an injury that forced him out in the first inning of a start in last year's American League Championship Series in Toronto once the cut opened up and began bleeding.
Bauer has learned his lesson, and learned to have fun with it. He learned a lot from that postseason run last year, not just the intensity of the games, but the intensity surrounding the games. While he comes into Game 1 as a surprise starter for the Indians to open their American League Division Series against the Yankees on Thursday night at Progressive Field, he should not be surprised by the stage.
"There are definitely things that you take into it and you learn," he said. "I don't know if it's necessarily conscious like I learned this exact thing. I think it's just, when you get out there, you're comfortable with stuff like this, like media the day before, media in the clubhouse, the breaks between innings for TV, the different start times, just the whole atmosphere, the adrenaline rush, the stakes, stuff like that.
"I think it's just a comfortability factor that you're not surprised by anything that comes up."
Bauer knows, for instance, that regular season trends mean little in October, which puts his season success against the Yankees into context for the ALDS presented by Doosan. He not only beat the Yanks twice in August, he held them to one run in each matchup -- seven innings on Aug. 4 at home, six innings on Aug. 30 at Yankee Stadium.
Those outings were bookends on a month during which he went 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA. The outing in the Bronx was particularly big, leading the Tribe to a 2-1 victory and a three-game series sweep of the Yankees.
"My start in New York, I was bad," Bauer said. "I walked a bunch of guys [four]. I didn't feel like I was very sharp. I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to. They hit some balls really hard. I think that start could have easily gone differently from a results standpoint …
"But none of that matters for this start anyway, really. The playoffs are a different animal, and any team can beat you on any day. So it's a matter of looking at that lineup, identifying a game plan, how you're going to attack each hitter, and then going out and trying to execute that."
Indeed, the matchups don't necessarily reflect the success. Bauer has held Gary Sanchez to one hit in six at-bats, but Brett Gardner is 6-for-20 (.300) with five walks, Todd Frazier is 7-for-22 (.318) with a double and a homer, and Didi Gregorius is 5-for-16 (.313) with a double and homer.
"Didi's had a really good year," Bauer said. "He can run a little bit, puts the ball in play and has power. Gardner puts the ball in play, steals bags, is a tough at-bat, takes a lot of pitches."
What of Aaron Judge, you ask? Bauer has yet to retire him, but in limited at-bats. Judge singled and walked twice at Progressive Field on Aug. 4, then didn't face Bauer in the Yankee Stadium matchup.
"You've got some youth in there with some big power," Bauer said. "You've got some veteran guys in there, too, that balance everything out. … So you have to be able to do a bunch of different things as a starting pitcher to be able to handle all the different types of hitters they have."
One thing Bauer won't be doing this week is tinkering with propellers on his drone.