Maybe that's happening now.
Bauer delivered his longest outing of the season (7 2/3 innings) and established a season-high in strikeouts (10) in a tour de force of a performance that helped power a 3-1 win over the Mariners that increased the Indians' winning streak to six games. It was the right way to start a crucial road trip against a contending team.
"When he needed to miss some bats, he was able to, but I thought he pitched really well," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think he threw the ball. I thought he pitched."
This is a crucial development for Cleveland if it continues. Bauer, who was drafted by the D-backs third overall in 2011 after a stellar career at UCLA and then traded to Cleveland in the winter of 2012, has spent his career trying to figure things out as the Indians' staff has tried along with him. The stuff has always been there, and now consistent results seem to be following.
Five of his last six outings have been quality starts. He's pitched at least seven innings in three of them. And on Monday night, he found another gear.
Bauer didn't strike out a batter through the first three innings, but he notched 10 in the ensuing 4 2/3.
"The first couple of innings, it was like I was in a lull or something," said Bauer, who improved to 4-2 while lowering his ERA to 3.88. "I felt like I couldn't throw hard. But when they got some guys on and scored a run [on a Norichika Aoki single in the third], I got a little adrenaline kick and it was good after that."
He was good all night. In the fourth inning, he struck out Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in order to get the first two outs, and after surrendering a double to Kyle Seager and walking Adam Lind, he fanned Chris Iannetta to end the threat.
In the sixth, Cruz banged a two-out double, but Bauer came back and struck out Seager on a wicked curveball.
"He did most of the work today," said center fielder Rajai Davis, who homered for Cleveland's third run. "He had his stuff working. You could see the confidence on the mound that he displayed. He just wanted the ball bad. … He pounded that strike zone with good pitches."
And he had fun, or, at least, some semblance of the concept that Bauer said he's not so sure how to define.
"What is happiness? What is fun?" Bauer said. "It's a feeling. I want to enjoy playing.
"I've been trying to do that more this year."