CLEVELAND -- The radar gun readings during Justin Masterson's most recent start were troubling at first glance. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said the diminished pitch speed was simply the product of poor mechanics.
Throughout Masterson's start against the Twins on Sunday, the big sinkerballer routinely sat around 87-90 mph with his fastball, which is a few miles per hour below his usual range. Masterson said he took something off his pitches in an effort to find the strike zone, but Callaway said a flaw in the pitcher's delivery was also to blame.
"It was more of a mechanical thing," Callaway said on Tuesday. "He wasn't using his front leg to block himself out. He was kind of landing open with his front leg and getting underneath the ball. So, he had no power. What he does best, when he's going good, is he blocks himself off with that front knee and he throws through it and drives his hips through it. He just wasn't doing that on Sunday."
During his Opening Day outing against the A's on March 31, Masterson turned in seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts and one walk. In Sunday's no-decision, the right-hander was charged with six runs (five earned) on seven hits and ended with four strikeouts, three walks and two hit batsmen.
Callaway said the difference between the starts was the control of Masterson's two-seam sinker. The pitching coach said a weakness of Masterson's can be commanding the sinker when it has excessive movement. In those situations, rather than trying to take some velocity off the two-seamer, Callaway feels Masterson should focus more on his four-seamer.
"The problem," Callaway said, "is what he was doing mechanically, and then trying to ease up and throw strikes with his two seamer, it kind of compounded everything and made it worse. He probably should've taken the other route, drive some four-seamers in there, something that doesn't move and work off that.
"We've talked about, 'Hey, when you've got that big two-seamer that's moving a lot, let's pitch off your four-seamer and use your two-seamer for chase. If not, if you sit there and pound two-seamers that you can't control, you fall behind, you walk guys and you get beat.'"
Callaway said he and Masterson went over the issue again during the pitcher's bullpen session on Tuesday.
"It's just something he has to keep in mind," Callaway said. "He'll be fine."
Tribe tabs improving Bauer to start twin-bill nightcap
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona has said repeatedly since the early days of Spring Training that Trevor Bauer would probably help the team at some point this season. Bauer's first chance to contribute will come Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Francona confirmed that Bauer will join Cleveland's roster as its 26th player to start Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Padres. Bauer was already on hand in the Tribe's clubhouse at Progressive Field, prepping for his first big league start of the year.
"His last four outings have been pretty good," Francona said. "Hopefully, he steps in, gives us six or seven good ones and we'll go from there."
Cleveland will host San Diego in a traditional doubleheader on Wednesday after having Monday's night game postponed due to rain. By promoting Bauer for the start, the Indians avoid needeing a subsequent roster move and the team can keep him on his five-day schedule. Wednesday was Bauer's day to pitch again for Triple-A Columbus.
In Friday's season opener with Columbus, the 23-year-old Bauer held Indianapolis to one run on two hits in six innings, during which he struck out nine and walked two. That was a continuation of the progress Bauer made in Spring Training, when he displayed a refined delivery after spending all of last season reworking his mechanics.
Francona feels Bauer is in a better position to provide a solid spot start for the Indians this year. After being acquired from Arizona in an offseason trade prior to last season, Bauer posted a 5.29 ERA in four outings with the Tribe and had more walks (16) than strikeouts (11) in his 17 innings in the Majors in 2013.
"You're new to an organization and dealing with all the things he was last year," Francona said, "and maybe we didn't know quite the extent [of the adjustments he was making]. But, I think he's better situated right now. I think he's more comfortable with himself and with us.
"And if he doesn't pitch the game of his life, that doesn't mean he's not going to be a good pitcher. But I think we all hope he does."
'Cooped up' Indians able to take BP in clear skies
CLEVELAND -- The sun has been a rare sight for the Indians during the first week of the regular season. It was shining bright on Tuesday afternoon, creating blue skies and giving Cleveland the chance to take pregame batting practice at Progressive Field.
Thanks to rain both out West and in Cleveland, Tuesday's workout marked only the second time in nine days that the Indians have been able to hit on the field.
"I know. How about that? I'm excited to get out there, man," Francona said. "I'm ready to go. We feel like we've been cooped up in here until game time."
Entering Tuesday's game against the Padres, the Indians were hitting .257 as a team with a .346 on-base percentage and .386 slugging percentage. Cleveland's only other time taking normal BP was on Sunday, when the team scored seven runs and churned out a season-high 15 hits in a loss to the Twins.
Francona downplayed the role that batting practice plays in the game that immediately follows.
"I don't know if it necessarily goes into each game," Francona said. "I don't know. Some of it has to do with the opposing pitcher. I just think getting your repetition in and being comfortable, it'll help you over the course of a number of games."
There are different schools of thought on the value of BP and whether it helps players. Asked for his take, Francona said hitting on the field is more important early in the season.
"I actually think it can be overrated deeper into the season, I really do," Francona said. "I think at times, we maybe do too much once guys are out there and it's hot. That's when you've got to remind yourself to back off. But, now, it's not overrated. Guys need repetition. They need to be on the field."
Quote to note
"He was trying to get his delivery back to where he was comfortable, and it was hard. I think it was a tough year for him [last season]. I think the thing that gets really missed along the way is he's a really good kid. He may not be the loudest guy when there's a group -- that's just the way he's built -- but he's a good kid."
-- Francona, on Trevor Bauer
• Indians third baseman Carlos Santana entered Tuesday leading the Majors with eight walks. Santana also led baseball with an average of 5.22 pitches per plate appearance (Mike Napoli ranked second at 4.88). Francona said Santana's blend of power and patience is impressive.
"It can be a little surprising, because he has so much violence in that swing," Francona said. "For the most part, once you throw it over the plate, and once he decides to swing, man, he's committed to that swing. He lets it fly. But he's got a rare ability. He's a switch-hitter, commands the zone from both sides and he hits good pitching."
• Hosting the Padres of the National League West would be seem odd at any point of the season for the Indians. Having San Diego in Cleveland during the first homestand of the year is even more different, and a testament to how Major League Baseball's schedule is evolving.
"I guess, if anything, I wish we would've been playing in San Diego," Francona said with a laugh. "It's just the way the schedule is. There are so many quirks to the schedule now, because of Interleague Play and divisional play and unbalanced schedule. That's why you just go where they tell you."
• Indians right-hander Frank Herrmann, who was designated for assignment on March 30, cleared waivers and has been sent outright to Triple-A Columbus. The 29-year-old Herrmann (the longest tenured player in Cleveland's organization) missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He has a 4.26 ERA in 95 career games in the Majors.
• At the suggestion of first baseman Nick Swisher, the Indians now allow their players to bring their daughters into the clubhouse after Sunday games in Cleveland. Swisher (son of former big leaguer Steve Swisher) said he remembers how much fun it was to be in the clubhouse as a kid and he believes this is another example of how the Indians put family first.