Bauer to start season in Indians' bullpen

Anderson, Tomlin win final two spots in starting rotation

Bauer to start season in Indians' bullpen

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Trevor Bauer walked down a hallway in the Indians' complex on Wednesday morning, the hood of his sweatshirt over his head and his eyes locked on his phone. The pitcher was still absorbing the news he had just received from manager Terry Francona.

Cleveland will start the season with Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin in the final two rotation spots, meaning Bauer will be in the Opening Day bullpen. Bauer did not make himself available to reporters, but Francona said he knows it was probably tough news to swallow for the young pitcher.

"We completely respect that. I wouldn't be happy if I was him today," Francona said. "I don't blame him for that. I think what's important is handling it and moving on as a team. That's part of why we're here, not just to deliver bad news, but to put the best team we can on the field and also to be there for when guys need help.

"Sometimes, it might be giving them space for a day. That's just being honest about it. But Trevor has had a way of when we've had difficult discussions, processing it and coming back and going in the right direction. We're here to help and so are his teammates. So, that's the goal."

Given Anderson's progress over the past year and this spring, Cleveland did not want to option him to Triple-A Columbus. The Indians also feel that Tomlin -- with previous experience as a reliever -- can handle being the fifth starter, which may require extra days between outings or brief bullpen exposure. That combination led the Indians to Wednesday's decision with Bauer.

The 25-year-old Bauer -- a key part of the nine-player, three-team trade that the Indians swung with the D-backs and Reds in December 2012 -- has gone 17-22 with a 4.42 ERA in 61 career games with Cleveland. That includes one relief appearance, which came during the right-hander's second-half struggles last summer. Bauer went 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA overall in '15, but led the American League in walks and labored late in the year.

"We still expect him to make a meaningful number of starts for us this year," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "When that happens, we're not exactly sure when it'll be, but he's going to be a big part of our team. It'll just start in the bullpen."

Francona said Bauer's role in the bullpen is not clear at the moment, but the righty can handle multiple innings, reach back for high velocity and face both lefties and righties.

"Guys sort of morph into roles as the season progresses," Francona said. "But he's not going out there to sit."

Once the dust settles, Tomlin said he hopes Bauer will accept the team's decision and embrace his job.

"I don't really know what he's thinking right now," Tomlin said. "I hope he takes it in stride and he goes out there and does what he can do to help this team win, because he's a very valuable pitcher on this team and we need him to get to where we're going. ... We need 25 guys pulling on the same rope in the same direction to get where we need to go.

"Everybody needs to buy into that and understand that it's not just one person that's going to take us there. It's not just one hitter. It's not one pitcher. It's not one bullpen guy. It's 25 guys collectively."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.