Bauer steps out of Cole's shadow, into spotlight
Trevor Bauer gets it. He's unusual, unorthodox. He fully understood that by taking the path he's taken, he would stand out for being different.
But it also can be a bit tiring.
"It's pretty cool when people acknowledge that I have a different way of going about things, but that gets old," the UCLA junior right-hander said. "People will say, 'His numbers are good, but ... ' It's all about my workout program and my mechanics. It would be nice if it was more about my fastball."
While Bauer's workouts and his mechanics make for an interesting story, it is his results that have him on the cusp of being a Top 10 pick in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft.
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As UCLA's Saturday starter, Bauer has led the nation in strikeouts, fanning 189 and walking just 34 over 127 2/3 innings. He's held hitters to a .152 batting average against and carried a 1.27 ERA into NCAA Regional play this weekend. And while Bauer does have an unusual delivery, those numbers don't all come from smoke and mirrors.
His fastball can touch 97 mph and sits comfortably in the 93-94 mph range. His curve is a plus breaking ball, and he augments those two with a variety of other breaking and offspeed pitches. That's a big reason why even though he's not the biggest guy in the world -- at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds -- and he's thrown a ton of pitches, his name is being mentioned as high as No. 3 overall.
"It's all about performance on the field," Bauer said. "If it's different but it works, people aren't going to have too much difficulty with it."
Bauer might be right, but he's got a pioneer to thank for making an industry that doesn't typically embrace unorthodoxy a bit more comfortable with "different."
Back in 2006, Tim Lincecum was an undersized right-hander with very unusual techniques. Despite being the best college pitcher in the class, performance-wise, the University of Washington product didn't go until No. 10 overall. Now, with the success Lincecum has had at the big league level, Bauer will almost certainly get a fair shake in terms of where he goes in the Draft.
"He definitely paved the way for me," said Bauer, who does not mind the inevitable Lincecum comparisons. "No doubt about that. Not just him, guys like Roy Oswalt, who have had success in the game. They've paved the way for smaller pitchers, broken down the idea that smaller pitchers can't be durable, can't be healthy. He's blazed a trail for me on that front. It will be easier for me going forward, because they have an example of something that's worked."
The trailblazer himself wasn't familiar with Bauer's work, not one to follow the amateur scene too closely now. But Lincecum did say that one should be careful not to bundle players together too much based on size or workout regimens. And he's pretty sure teams will look at a player on a case-by-case basis.
"I'm not a scouting director or a guy who makes those decisions," Lincecum said. "It's instance-based, I guess you could say. It depends on what they're looking at."
A lot of people are looking, trying to figure out exactly what to make of Bauer. He's in the "long-toss at greater distances" camp, he started throwing baseballs soaked in water to build arm strength after he heard that Dominicans and Cubans would throw coconuts for that reason. It's something he still does. But Bauer doesn't just blindly follow some workout guru. He's careful about what he adopts and what he rejects from his workouts.
"There are certain things I've been skeptical about, but I'd be willing to experiment with it," Bauer said. "A lot of people think the workouts I do, I just listen to people. I'll try something out and I'll adapt it to what works best for me. Some things I've not continued to do. It's a process of what I think will work best for me."
Ironically, all this attention goes counter to what Bauer prefers when he's on the mound. Not that he shrinks from the attention -- he's a very self-possessed young man -- but he hasn't minded that most of the attention at UCLA has gone to the guy who takes the ball one day ahead of him: Gerrit Cole.
Cole fits the prototype of the future rotation ace. Big, strong, with a fastball that reaches triple digits, Cole has been talked about as a potential No. 1 overall pick. But it's been Bauer who's actually performed better and put up superior numbers this season with everyone watching. Still, Bauer is happy to stand behind his teammate.
"I'm not a guy that really needs to have the spotlight on you," Bauer said. "I don't mind when it's on me, but I'm happier when I'm flying below the radar. Pitching behind Gerrit, there have been more pros than cons.
"It's easier to pitch sometimes, because the expectations aren't as high. My expectations have always been higher than others, which is easier for me to deal with. I get to see a team before I face it, which he doesn't get to do. He shares a lot of stuff with me as well, that's helpful. I like to pitch when it's warm, so pitching during the day is helpful. The only con is I get overshadowed a bit because it's Gerrit Cole. I'm secondary even though I pitch as well, but that's the only con."
And it's one that may no longer be entirely true. Cole may indeed go ahead of Bauer when all is said and done, but it's fairly evident that Bauer has stepped out of the shadow for good.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. Joe DiGiovanni contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.