CLEVELAND -- There is just something about the mentality of a player who wants the ball in pressure situations that draws respect from teammates and coaches in a Major League Baseball clubhouse, and admiration is exactly what right-handed starter Trevor Bauer has gained in 2017.
That tough mindset gave the Indians little concern when they named Bauer the Game 1 starter for the American League Division Series, where the Indians will face off against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field tonight.
“Trevor will never back down from a challenge, and we love that about him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday.
PHOTOS: Trevor Bauer ready for Game 1 start with Cleveland Indians
Even before beginning their AL-record 22-game winning streak in mid-August, the Indians saw Bauer emerge as the type of talent who was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.
In the month of August, Bauer posted a 5-0 record and 2.30 earned run average in seven appearances, including six starts. Over 39.0 innings of work, Bauer allowed 10 earned runs and nine walks against 40 strikeouts.
Bauer earned two wins each over the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the top two teams in the AL East Division, as well as one against the Kansas City Royals.
“Since whatever date you can go back, he’s been one of the better pitchers in the league,” Francona said. “He’s durable. He bounces back really well. That was another thing. We can use him, whether it’s a second start or in the bullpen probably easier than anyone else on the roster, so that’s another factor.
“The chances of anybody besides Kluber going real deep in a game probably aren’t real good because we’re going to get to our bullpen if we have a lead, or if we don’t have a lead, you’ll probably get to your bullpen.”
Bauer finished the regular season with a 17-9 record and 4.19 ERA in 32 games, including 31 starts. Over 176.1 innings of work. Bauer registered 196 strikeouts against 60 walks allowed.
During the regular season, Bauer was a standout performer at Progressive Field, going 10-4 with a 3.93 ERA and 116 strikeouts against 25 walks allowed in 103.0 innings of work in 17 starts in front of the home fans.
“Sometimes, we lose track because we’re with guys all the time, but from five years ago, the growth he’s made not just being a teammate, but as a pitcher, he’s come a long way,” Francona said.
“We’re proud of him, and he’s continued to work, and he takes feedback. He asks for feedback, and I think Roberto’s done a really good job with him, earning the trust, but Trevor’s done a heck of a job. For him to get the ball in Game 1 speaks volumes.”