DETROIT -- Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway had a long conversation with starter Trevor Bauer on Friday. In the hours before Saturday's 6-0 loss to Detroit, Callaway monitored the young pitcher's bullpen session at Comerica Park and felt he saw some progress.
The goal for Callaway has been to convince Bauer -- a pitcher who believes pitching up the in the strike zone is one of his strengths -- that he needs to focus more on throwing down in the zone. Callaway and the rest of Cleveland's staff know that it is a project that will take time and willingness on the part of the analytically-minded Bauer.
"We're still trying to really teach him about pitching," Callaway said on Saturday. "He's pitched in the Major Leagues for quite some time now, but he hasn't pitched a lot in his life overall. To be honest with you, his stuff is so good that when he was pitching in high school or college or even in the Minor Leagues, it didn't matter what plan he had. He was going to deal. So, his plan, at that time, felt like it was working for him.
"We're in the middle of trying to change what he's worked on for a long time, and put a lot of time and effort into and really believed in. We're trying to change that and that's hard to do when you're a young kid who think he knows a lot."
Over his past five outings, the 24-year-old Bauer has posted a 7.84 ERA and an .894 opponents' OPS in 20 2/3 innings, and has lasted fewer than four innings three times. He has a 5.85 ERA in his last 16 turns, which have included a .340 on-base percentage and .466 slugging percentage from opposing batters. In the 11 starts prior to that, Bauer had a 2.94 ERA to go along with a .293 OBP and .327 SLG from hitters.
Callaway said the bulk of the damage has been from elevated pitches.
"There's very small margin for error when you pitch up in the zone," Callaway said. "And that's where most of guys' slugging and things like that, damage, is done. That's his issue. It's not the hits given up. It's the damage with those hits. The home runs. The doubles. He's pitching to a part in the zone where all of that happens -- up and mainly in."
Callaway said there has also been frustration stemming from Bauer's postgame comments about his outings. On Wednesday in Toronto, for example, the young righty gave up five runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, and told reporters after the loss that he "threw a lot of quality pitches" that the Blue Jays managed to hit.
"It just kind of shows you that he doesn't quite know a lot about pitching yet. That's the way I take it," Callaway said of Bauer's assessment. "Everybody else in the room can look at the video and say, 'Those are not quality pitches.' And he thinks they are."
On a number of occasions this season, Bauer has also contradicted the analysis of manager Terry Francona.
"What I really care about is, 'OK, do you really feel that way?'" Francona said. "I think his first reaction to a lot of things is to go the other direction, sometimes probably just to aggravate you. Even if it does aggravate you, that's not the end all, be all. We just want to fix it. His answers to the media aren't going to determine, to me, what kind of pitcher he is."
Callaway said, as intelligent as Bauer is as a person, he has a lot of room for growth as a pitcher.
"It's frustrating at times," Callaway said. "We spend a lot of time trying to help him out with what's going wrong at the current moment, and things like that. We give him a lot of information. I think what it comes down to is he's a really smart kid, but he's not a smart pitcher, yet. That's what we're trying to work towards. He doesn't know a lot about pitching, so we're trying to instill the basics."