November 29, 2022

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

New Dodgers ace Trevor Bauer’s first game meets expectations

The only time adrenaline rushed through Trevor Bauer in his Dodgers debut Monday was when, facing the last hitter of his two-inning stint, he flipped the script and signaled fastball to catcher Will Smith.

Bauer was locked in by that point. The batter, former Dodgers farmhand Connor Joe, knew what was coming and it didn’t matter. Bauer reared back and delivered the pitch up and over the plate. Joe fouled the pitch off to remain in an 0-2 hole. The next pitch was a tight curveball that Joe swung through to become Bauer’s second strikeout victim of the chilly afternoon at Camelback Ranch.

Otherwise, Bauer said butterflies didn’t surface during his short time on the mound. He appeared amped up to start against the Colorado Rockies, pitching in front of fans for the first time in a year but settled in after yielding a leadoff single.

In all, he threw 28 pitches, 21 for strikes, and didn’t allow a second baserunner. His fastball velocity sat between 89 and 94 mph. His curveball, which he used to seal both strikeouts in the second inning, was 78 to 81 mph.

“It was just a game,” Bauer said. “It felt good to be back, out doing my job.”

The 30-year-old Bauer spoke to reporters by the backfields immediately after his outing during the Dodgers’ 10-0, six-inning win. He emerged with a camera he uses to record vlogs for his social media platforms and held it up for the 13-minute session.

He answered questions on topics ranging from his meticulous preparation to his early impressions of the Dodgers to the people who say his 2020 National League Cy Young deserves an asterisk because it came in a truncated season with a regionalized schedule.

“I know what kind of pitcher I am,” said Bauer, who recorded a 1.73 earned-run average in 73 innings across 11 starts for the Cincinnati Reds last season. “I know how hard I work, how much knowledge I’ve amassed and how far I’ve come. So, if I have something to prove, it’s to myself, always. I hold myself to a much higher standard than anyone else holds me to. So, people can say what they want to say.

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies during a spring training game in Phoenix on Monday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Bauer signed a three-year, $102 million contract — with opt-outs after the first and second years — last month. He is slated to be the highest-paid player in the majors this season and again next year if he doesn’t opt out. He chose the Dodgers over the New York Mets, who believed they had the inside track the night before Bauer made his decision.

On Monday morning, hours before Bauer took the mound, Mets president Sandy Alderson confirmed the Mets’ pursuit. He also addressed the potential risk involved in signing Bauer, whose social media behavior has been criticized.

“It’s hard to know how it would’ve turned out, but we thought we could manage it,” Alderson said in a video conference from Florida. “Maybe that was naïve. We’ll see.”

The Dodgers weren’t starving for a frontline starter. Bauer’s addition bordered on overkill for a defending World Series champion that already had a surplus of major league-capable starters with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and David Price.

But the Dodgers believe Bauer’s short-term demands were too good to pass up for a pitcher of his caliber and that he will fit into their veteran clubhouse.

“I already knew he was a very curious player,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I’ve known he’s a great teammate and he’s a great competitor. Those are things that just basically have been validated. He’s been fantastic.”

Bauer’s next step is ramping up to three innings and 45 pitches in his next Cactus League outing. The goal is to reach 90 pitches by the end of the exhibition season, before the regular season starts and the adrenaline spikes last more than one fleeting moment.

“I’m looking forward to when the games matter and I get those butterflies, I get those adrenaline rushes,” Bauer said. “That’s what I live for. I’m excited.”