Somehow in the last few months, the position of “Indians Starting Pitcher” has become more endangered than “Cleveland Browns Quarterback,” as the team’s exciting close to the season and start to their playoff run has simultaneously endured despite a rash of injuries to the rotation.
This begs the question: When will it catch up to them?
Friday afternoon’s stunning news that Trevor Bauer’s Game 2 start in the ALCS was pushed back after suffering a laceration to his pinky finger created a frenzy and had all of sarcastic Cleveland tweeters arriving at the exact same conclusion in one punch line or another — “Must have been injured it on his drone,” or “Must have suffered the injury blocking a tweeter.”
OK … close.
Bauer reportedly needed 10 stitches and the Indians remain confident that he will be able to pitch in Game 3 when the series shifts to Toronto. The news means that Josh Tomlin will get bumped up to Game 2, a slight disruption in his routine considering he was prepping for a couple more days of rest. At least Bauer’s manager, who is no stranger to answering for some of Bauer’s incidents and quirks, had a good sense of humor about things.
Controversy is nothing new for the eccentric right-hander, who seems to relish scrutiny, whether in press conferences or social media. Never shy to pick a fight, Bauer has been the one Indians player to continually go after media publicly. Even after Jason Kipnis and Paul Hoynes seemed to bury the hatchet over a beer (albeit one that was dumped on the beat writer’s head), Bauer was relentless in calling out the veteran writer for not showing up in the clubhouse during the divisional series-clinching win over the Boston, even though he was wrong.
Bauer’s short career has had the same ups and downs as one of his now infamous aerial drones, skyrocketing with potential that’s been displayed after plenty of dominant outings, but also showing plenty of signs of a descent, like his September struggles that came with as many excuses as it did earned runs.
The Indians were well aware of the adventure they were embarking on when they traded for Bauer, who rubbed people in the Diamondbacks organization the wrong way the minute he was drafted. His unorthodox approach to warming up for starts, paired with his proclivity to shake off his catcher from his very first MLB start and questionable locker room attitude plagued his early days. He has come a long way since then, emerging from the bullpen in 2016 after many had written him off as a starter, while occasionally demonstrating why his personal coach Alan Jaeger had predicted he would become a multiple Cy Young Award winner.
Baseball has had its share of bizarrely humorous off-the-field injuries over the years, like former Indians outfielder Mart Cordova, who famously had a DNP: Tanning Bed Injury on his resume, so Bauer’s accident is nothing new. Certainly, guys can get injured doing anything, and you can’t just wrap all your players in bubble on their off days. But we’re talking about the first ALCS appearance for the team in nine years and a team that has sights on its first World Series berth in 19 years, so the timing is not ideal — especially considering the losses of Salazar and Carrasco already limiting the team’s margin for error.
Perhaps Bauer goes out in Toronto and pitches a gem, allowing this to become a comical footnote in what has been a fascinating season for the organization. At this point you can’t put anything past this team. But if Bauer gets rocked, you can be sure the Twitter mentions won’t be friendly, and Bauer will need all his fingers to do the blocking.