When Indians general-manager Chris Antonetti pulled his portion of the trigger on the three-team mega-deal that brought former Diamondbacks Ace-in-Waiting Trevor Bauer to Cleveland last winter, it was done in part to guard against what the Indians are facing currently.
Not only is Bauer viewed as an integral piece of the Indians future in which he and Danny Salazar will anchor the rotation for seasons to come, but with the likelihood of Ubaldo Jimenez returning looking less and less likely with each passing day, it would be a tremendous boost to the chances of the Indians building on the success of 2013 if Bauer is able to harness that potential and promise that made him the third overall selection in 2011.
The Indians are hoping the future is now as the Tribe appears to be headed into the 2014 season with another rotation with more questions than solid answers. Justin Masterson is the only clear lock in where the odds are pretty good for him to repeat or improve on what he gave last year. Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister are still trying to find their way despite turning in solid performances more often than not. The Little Cowboy, Josh Tomlin, is still working his way back from injury and Carlos Carrasco is a hot-headed flame-thrower who has more in common with Rick Vaughn than he probably wants to admit. Shaun Marcum is this year’s version of Scott Kazmir; you’re just hoping he can get through five innings without too much damage. You’d have to think that an ERA under 5.-something would be deemed a success after getting bombed with the Mets prior to having his season ended early.
So, questions everywhere.
And the legend of Danny Salazar is something that potentially can usher a special era of Indians baseball, but a seasonal correction is very possible, if it’s not to be expected. So, whatever consistent help Bauer can give will make the chances of a return to October baseball all the more possible.
To Bauer’s credit, he seems to get it. Are his struggles a bit of humble pie? Were the Diamondbacks’ reservations overblown? I guess we’ll only find out in time. But for a team who needs whatever arms they can find, Bauer being able to take the next step is seemingly paramount for competing against the Tigers and (possibly) the Royals.
Let Bauer warm up however he wants. Let him long-toss to New Philly if need be. There’s a spot waiting for you, kid. Come and get it.