Indians hoping Bauer can break out of funk

Indians hoping Bauer can break out of funk

DETROIT -- Trevor Bauer has been unable to pinpoint the issue behind his struggles so far this season. There have been starts in which he felt fluke hits wrecked his line. After others, he explained that he executed his game plan to perfection, but still got beat by the hitters.

In the wake of a 7-1 loss to the Tigers on Monday night, Bauer only pointed the finger at himself.

"I just wasn't any good," Bauer said. "Hopefully, it's just bad luck and it'll turn around."

It has been a frustrating five-start stretch for Bauer and the Indians, who are also hoping the right-hander can correct the early trend. The pitcher is quick to point out that his velocity is right where it should be, and that his strikeout rate (28.7 percent) and walk rate (7.1 percent) were both at career-best levels when he took the mound at Comerica Park on Monday.

Throughout April, Bauer labored to find the same consistency he displayed last year with his curveball. In his latest setback against Detroit, the righty's problem was fastball command. The Tigers went a combined 6-for-11 with four extra-base hits and five walks against Bauer's two-seam and four-seam fastballs.

When the smoke cleared, Bauer was charged with seven runs in four-plus innings to push his season ERA to 7.67.

"A lot of deep counts," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Sometimes, he gets himself into a situation where a lot of hitters are in deep counts and he has to make a pitch. And after they've seen four, five, six pitches, you've got to make almost a perfect pitch. Every once in a while he does, but when he doesn't, they squared up a lot of balls."

An example arrived in the second inning, when Bauer fired an inside two-seamer to Tyler Collins in a 2-2 count with two runners aboard. The pitch missed off the plate for a ball, and Bauer stared in for a moment before moving back up the mound. One pitch later, the righty left a four-seamer elevated over the heart of the plate, and Collins crushed it into the seats in right-center for a three-run home run.

Collins' three-run home run

There were other points within his outing when Bauer looked visibly frustrated on the mound after close calls.

"Some nights, you feel like you need [calls to go your way]," Francona said. "I understand that. I just think when you're following the glove, you're going to lead umpires to [call strikes on close pitches]. That's just the way it goes. I totally get it. When you're not following the glove, it's hard on everybody."

On this night, Bauer was not about to blame the umpiring.

"I just didn't put the ball where I wanted to," the pitcher said. "Tonight was a struggle."

Considering the Indians are only a month into the season, there have been no hints that Cleveland is thinking about a rotation shakeup. Bauer is out of Minor League options, so a move to the bullpen would be the likely scenario if the Indians decide to make a change. The Tribe's top starter at Triple-A, righty Mike Clevinger, has a 1.50 ERA with 27 strikeouts against eight walks through 24 innings.

Asked for his thoughts on Bauer's rough start to the season, Francona limited his answer to the game at hand.

"I'm probably not prepared to answer that after a game," Francona said. "We kind of stay in the moment. Tonight was a tough night."

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.