BALTIMORE -- On a recent morning in Kansas City, Trevor Bauer was navigating one of his personal drones up and over a large tree in a local park. As the Indians pitcher maneuvered the machine near the top branches, it nicked a limb and became wedged among the leaves.
With no immediate solution for retrieving the drone, Bauer retreated to the ballpark for the day. When he learned about the predicament, Cleveland catcher Chris Gimenez offered to help.
"I told him that I could get it down in an instant," Gimenez said. "He was like, 'No, we're a team. If you fall out of the tree and can't play, then I can't pitch.'"
Asked about the conversation, Bauer cracked a smile.
"Yeah, if he goes on the DL, I'd have to go on the DL," Bauer said. "We're basically a package deal now."
The Indians have waited for several seasons to finally see the best of Bauer. This year, the right-hander has blossomed, both due to a lot of extensive work done behind the scenes and an altered approach to his pitch repertoire. Beyond that, though, Bauer credits some of his success to Gimenez, who has been an unsung hero since his arrival in May.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona does not like to use the term "personal catcher," because slapping that kind of a label on a player can pigeonhole a team. But if it works, it works. Gimenez was acquired from Texas on May 4 and he first caught Bauer on May 5. They have been partners on the field ever since, and Bauer has thrived in the way the Tribe has always envisioned.
"Gimenez has done such a good job of getting Trevor to buy in, or trust," Francona said. "I think it's helped a lot. ... [Gimenez] did a really good job of not just making a one-day effort. It's every day. I see them talking on the bench all the time."
When it became clear to Gimenez that he would be catching Bauer regularly, he gave the pitcher a simple message.
"I want him to be him," Gimenez said. "That's the first thing I told him. I want him to be him. If he wants to throw reverse changeups, sliders or whatever, he's going to do it. I think taking stuff away like, 'No, you can't do that,' that's a bad thing to me. To me, that creates that barrier. I want him to be as open with me as possible."
It is no secret that Bauer has strong opinions about pitching and his pitching philosophy. That is why he has butted heads at times with Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway. The right-hander likes to take feedback and analyze it and study it before accepting that he should do something different. This season, Callaway and Bauer found more of a middle ground in their goals.
On top of that, Bauer has appreciated Gimenez's approach to dialogue.
"A lot of times when you throw to a new catcher," Bauer said, "and I've experienced this in the past, not necesarily in this organization, but when they're not willing to work with what you've done, what's made you successful and understand that that holds importance to you as a pitcher, then it gets off to a bad start.
"But my relationship with Chris has been great this year. And it's not any knock on the other guys. I enjoy throwing to all of our catchers. It's just, it's been nice that it's worked out this way."
Gimenez used the example of a routine mound visit.
If Gimenez throws down a sign for a certain pitch in a specific situation, and Bauer shakes him off to go to a different offering, Gimenez might pop out of his crouch and head to the hill for a chat. Rather than insist that the pitcher throw the pitch that was called, though, Gimenez uses an approach that puts Bauer in control.
"I'll go out and be like, 'Listen, man, what are you thinking?'" Gimenez explained. "I'd never say, 'I think you should do this.' I always start with, 'What are you thinking?'"
That is subtle, but it works.
"It's big to develop that relationship," Bauer said. "He knows how I like to pitch, and I'm confident in what he's calling and it works out well."
Since Gimenez began catching Bauer, the right-hander has posted a 3.04 ERA with a .221 opponents' average in 91 2/3 innings. That includes a stellar June, in which Bauer went 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 12 walks in 44 2/3 innings. Since their first game together on May 5, Bauer has lowered his season ERA to 3.36 from 5.28.
During the time Bauer has worked with Gimenez, he has increased the use of his curveball, which is rated as one of the best breaking pitches in baseball, and his changeup. The catcher has helped the pitcher use a more balanced mix of fastballs, cutters, curves and changeups.
"I told him from the beginning, 'We're going to use all your pitches,'" Gimenez said. "I don't want to take what makes him good away from him. I think sometimes that's what he feels people in the past have tried to do."
Gimenez joked that he has become Bauer's babysitter.
That made Francona laugh.
"All good catchers are," Francona said. "That, and part used car salesman."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. 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.