From bullpen to Game 1: Bauer earns Tribe's trust

After beginning season as reliever, right-hander will start Cleveland's postseason opener

From bullpen to Game 1: Bauer earns Tribe's trust

CLEVELAND -- The question was fairly typical for a young pitcher at a postseason pre-start press conference: If someone had told Trevor Bauer before the season began that he'd go from the Opening Day bullpen to Game 1 starter in the AL Division Series, what would he have said?

The answer was fairly typical Bauer, which isn't typical at all.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CLE 5, BOS 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 7 CLE 6, BOS 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 CLE 4, BOS 3 video

"I'm not sure. I probably wouldn't have said anything," he said on the eve of Game 1 (8 p.m. ET on TBS). "I just would have walked away probably, knowing me and my personality."

He's unique, and he acknowledges it. He also realizes that doesn't always make him easy to work with. His throwing routine, including extra-long tossing, has been a topic of discussion with coaches in the past, and a touchy topic with him.

"It's been evolving, that's for sure," Indians manager Terry Francona said of their relationship.

This year, both Bauer and the Indians have been flexible about his between-outings work, a middle ground that evolved after Bauer spent most of April in the bullpen.

Francona on starting Bauer

"They have a routine that they're confident in and helps get them prepared to pitch," Bauer said. "I may do different stuff in my routine, but it's for the same purpose, so you can try to control how your body feels, have it be as repeatable as possible from start to start. I'm very confident in it. I think it works for me. I feel great. I feel strong.

"The Indians as an organization have done a great job kind of allowing me to do that, trying to learn what it is I do. I can be difficult to deal with sometimes, but I think they've done a good job kind of navigating that and finding a working relationship with me."

Bauer on his pregame routine

The fact that Bauer is starting Game 1 against the Red Sox furthers that relationship. Agree or disagree with his routine, with so many starters out and Corey Kluber bouncing back, the Indians need Bauer. In turn, Bauer needs to rise to the opportunity, including pitching on three days of rest in a potential Game 4 in the best-of-five series.

"Kluber is the undisputed ace of our staff," Francona said. "Everybody knows what he's been through, and it's easier for him to pitch in Game 2. I don't think anybody has any trepidation about letting Trevor pitch in Game 1. I think he's been waiting for this his whole life. And we also think he can bounce back and pitch on short rest and do just fine."

A Game 4 challenge would come with the added difficulty of Fenway Park, where Bauer has pitched and lost in each of the last two seasons. After giving up five runs on six hits while recording just five outs last year, he rebounded for four runs on eight hits over five innings on May 21.

Bauer acknowledges his challenges on that, too.

"I think I threw the ball well [in May]," Bauer said. "Pitching in Fenway is a different animal. So hopefully I get another crack at that."

Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.