Bauer continues evolution in Indians rotation

Right-hander has 2.01 ERA in six June starts

Bauer continues evolution in Indians rotation

ATLANTA -- When the Indians arrived at Turner Field ahead of Monday's 8-3 win over the Braves, Trevor Bauer's teammates peppered him with questions about where to go.

This week's series marks Cleveland's first trip to Atlanta since 2013. But the ballpark hits closer to home for the right-hander.

On June 28, 2012, Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick by the D-backs in the 2011 Draft, made his much-anticipated Major League debut in Atlanta. He allowed two runs in four innings and was handed a no-decision in a 3-2 Arizona win.

But upon making his return on Monday, Bauer couldn't help direct his teammates. And when he took the mound, the stadium itself looked far different than he remembered.

Indians discuss winning streak

"I guess I was so focused on pitching and whatnot that I didn't really take in the ambience of it the first time," Bauer said.

A lot has changed since then for the 25-year-old, who has struggled with bouts of inconsistency throughout the first four seasons of his career. But since returning to the Indians' starting rotation on April 30, Bauer has flashed the skills that once made him one of baseball's top prospects.

His recent string of success continued against the Braves, as he surrendered two earned runs and five hits while striking out five over six innings en route to his sixth win of the season and the team's 10th straight victory.

Indians win 10 straight

Much of Bauer's tribulations early in his career resulted from command issues. A season ago, he gave up 79 walks, the third-most in the Majors. Entering Monday's game, though, he had walked just nine batters in his past five starts.

The right-hander couldn't sustain this recent trend against Atlanta, walking three of the first eight hitters he faced. But he didn't allow any of those runners to score.

"He's done that before," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think he's getting better at that, though, and about not walking people. I think he used to not care, and we tried to convince him that's a hard way to pitch. But he's done a much better job.

"He's got the weapons to pitch around rallies, and he doesn't ever back down. So he has the ability to get out of stuff like that."

Bauer ultimately allowed the Braves to break through later in the game. But after surrendering a solo home run to Tyler Flowers, he yielded only two hits to the next 10 batters he faced.

With Monday's win, the Indians have now won five of Bauer's past six starts. He's 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA during that span.

"I try to let him be him as much as possible," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "Because, to me, that's the best way to get the most out of a guy. I think we're starting to see some of what everybody else has seen in spurts for a long time."

While Bauer appears to be showing signs of being the pitcher he was once touted to become, he knows much has changed since he took the hill at Turner Field four years ago.

"That's part of the maturing process and learning what's effective at the big league level," Bauer said. "I try to evolve and get better every day.

"I'm definitely a better pitcher now than I was then."

Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.