The Indians announced the number four and five spots in the rotation today, and it came as a bit of a surprise (to me, at least). I expected the final two spots after Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar to go to Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. However, they announced that Bauer will actually start the year in the bullpen, while those rotation spots go to Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson.
While immensely talented, Bauer has struggled with consistency throughout his major league career. He’s had command issues at times, and often could be brilliant in one start, and knocked around in the next. The Indians made a point of mentioning that he had a new routine this offseason; one that hopefully would help with the consistency issues. He looked good every time I saw him in Arizona this spring, and during his most recent outing on Tuesday against the Angels he pitched six scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none. Bauer allowed fewer walks in general throughout spring training, which shows he was able to improve upon some of his past command issues.
I knew that the Indians would more than likely put Tomlin in the rotation. His strong performance in the second-half of 2015, coupled with the fact that he seems to be beloved by coaches and players gave him a major edge going into camp. Plus Tomlin signed a two-year deal over the winter, which meant that the Indians obviously planned to use him. In many ways the Indians probably wanted to reward Cody Anderson for his strong performance last year as well. Although he still has options remaining, while Tomlin and Bauer do not. It’s one of the reasons that I thought Anderson may start in Columbus, especially since the Indians don’t necessarily even need five starters in April.
There’s a very good chance that Bauer ends up starting games before the season is over. Every time a team seems to have an embarrassment of riches at a certain position, something happens to change the situation within the first month or two. Someone could go on the disabled list, or perhaps they just need to skip a start. I guess this is just kind of disappointing and baffling to me because Bauer has such good stuff, and he finally seemed to work through some of his bad habits since the end of last season. I also don’t want to see him continually bounced from the bullpen to the rotation, like they did with Carrasco when he struggled in the past.
One of the only ways this makes sense to me – Ryan pointed out on Twitter that Bauer really struggled toward the end of last season (as he lost his spot in the rotation). He also threw more innings in 2015 than he had at any point in his career thus far (176). Perhaps the Indians want to preserve his arm so he’s better down the stretch this season? I’ve seen some comments where people suggest that he’s heading to the bullpen because the Indians want to make sure they get off to a strong start in April. However, April was Bauer’s best month last season – so wouldn’t that mean they’d want to have him start the year in the rotation, then pull him later?
In the long run, this may not be a big issue. Heck, maybe the Indians could even end up looking like geniuses for making this move. I’m just not crazy about it though, and I would rather see some configuration that puts Bauer in the rotation (whether that means having Anderson start the season in Columbus, or having him work out of the bullpen) For much of his career, Bauer has been a very talented enigma. It seemed like he went a long way in solving some of the mystery this winter and spring, and did what was asked of him, only to end up in the bullpen anyway. What more was he supposed to do? Does this mean that they’ve completely lost faith in him, and that he’s about out of chances with the team? All I can hope – if Tomlin and/or Anderson struggle, that they do give Bauer another chance to prove himself in the rotation. In that scenario, I’d just have to hope that he’s able to readjust to the rotation from the bullpen.