GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The sound can be heard from a field away at Indians camp this year: The thump, thump, thump of weighted baseballs slamming against pads that hang from chain-link fences around the team's complex. It is not a new development, but this spring it is certainly more prevalent.
"To see it be a growing trend in baseball and in training in general, I think it's great," Bauer said on Friday morning. "I think it's going to help people stay healthier and it's going to help injury rates fall. I've believed in that for a long time."
Bauer has incorporated weighted-ball training into his throwing since his earliest days of pitching. At the advice of a coach, the Indians starter said that he used to soak baseballs in water when he was 6 years old before playing catch with his dad. A couple of years later -- tired of water splashing in his face when the ball would smack his glove -- they came up with a different solution.
Bauer and his father would drill quarter-sized holes in baseballs and softballs and hammer in fishing sinkers into the balls before caulking them closed.
"After throwing them for a month or two," said Bauer, who smirked at the memory, "the caulk would come loose and the fishing weights would fly out. So, then we'd put duct tape around them."
Bauer & his dad used to drill holes in softballs and insert fishing sinkers to create weighted balls when he was a kid. Times have changed. pic.twitter.com/fTVqSSROlH
Things have changed dramatically since those days.
Commerical weighted baseballs are now easily obtained by players, and some teams have embraced the training program used by Bauer and others. The Indians do not require weighted-ball workouts for pitchers, but they encourage it from the Minor Leagues up, providing information to players on the potential benefits. This spring, Cleveland put up rows of pads on both the Major League and Minor League sides, so pitchers have access during daily routines.
"We always try to do two things," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. "One, is be innovative with our training methods. So, if there are things we think can help a guy, we make sure we provide it as a resource to players. And two, we make sure that, as our players ask for things and want things, that we provide it to them and make it seamless in their training programs."
Bauer spends part of each offseason training at Driveline Baseball in Seattle, where weighted-ball training is a regular part of the program. The balls, which range from 3-11 ounces and are used for strength and velocity training, can now be spotted on the warning track around the diamonds and inside players' lockers. As they become more popular around Tribe camp, Bauer said he has been peppered with questions by other pitchers.
"Guys that I don't know use weighted balls," Bauer said, "will come up to me and say, 'Hey, I was using weighted balls this offseason and my shoulder's never felt better. ... Why does your arm never hurt?' Well, I throw a lot, but it's also the care that I put into it and how I throw and what I throw and the weighted balls and whatnot.
"That's my favorite part about it. It's encouraged. The guys that don't do it, see it, see everyone else doing it, and go, 'Oh, let me try this.'"
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.