Trevor Bauer figures to make his way into the Indians rotation eventually. It just won't be by Opening Day.
Cleveland's second-ranked prospect, along with fellow right-hander Corey Kluber, was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday. That leaves Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco to vie for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Bauer made five appearances, one of them a start, at big league camp this spring, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 14 innings. He struck out nine and walked four.
The 22-year-old told MLB.com on Thursday that he was more concerned with his long-term development than starting the season with the club.
"I don't think about making a big league club or not. I think about my improvement and getting better," he said. "If I can improve every day, then that's all I can handle. I made a decision to make some changes that are going to help me long term. That's what I'm doing."
Indians manager Terry Francona told MLB.com that he felt sending Bauer down wasn't so much a reflection on his performance as it was on the quality of depth the team has at the Major League level.
"It's just that we have [Kazmir and Carrasco] ahead of [Bauer and Kluber] right now. Personally, I think it's a real hard day for those guys, which I understand," he said. "When you end up sending guys back, that can help at the Major League level -- I think that means we've gotten deeper, which is good. It's still a hard day for those guys, which we respect."
Bauer was obtained by Cleveland in a six-player, three-team deal in December that also sent Didi Gregorius to Arizona and Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati.
The third overall pick in the 2011 Draft made his Major League debut last season with the D-backs, going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four starts. In 22 outings for Triple-A Reno, he posted a 2.42 ERA in 130 1/3 innings with 157 strikeouts against 61 walks.
The UCLA product is MLB.com's No. 17 prospect overall.