The start to Trevor Bauer's 2013 season has been a balancing act.
There's been the transition to a new organization. There's been the process that he described as trying to "overwrite eight to 10 years of neuromuscular programming in four or five weeks." There have been the game to game adjustments that occupy the time of every professional pitcher who takes the mound.
Bauer seemed to have everything in check in his debut for Triple-A Columbus on Saturday afternoon.
The Indians' No. 2 prospect allowed a run on four hits and three walks while striking out nine over six innings as the Clippers edged Indianapolis, 2-1, in the first game of a doubleheader.
The nine punchouts were the 22-year-old right-hander's highest total in a Major or Minor League game since Aug. 22, when he fanned nine for Triple-A Reno.
Indianapolis' lone run came on Brett Carroll's second-inning homer. Bauer (1-0) escaped from a bases-loaded jam in the fourth when Brandon Inge was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Jeremy Hermida while trying to score on Matt Hague's single. He worked around a double by Felix Pie and a hit batter in the sixth by striking out Inge and Hague to conclude his outing after 98 pitches, 53 for strikes.
Bauer, who was sent from the D-backs to the Indians as part of a three-team trade involving the Reds last December, struggled in his Cleveland debut a week ago, allowing three earned runs on two hits and a career-high seven walks over five innings in a 6-0 loss to the Rays.
Aside from the level of competition between the Majors and Triple-A, the difference between that first outing and Saturday's was just one pitch, according to MLB.com's No. 17 overall prospect.
"I decided yesterday I was going to throw a good curveball and, thankfully, it was there today," Bauer said. "I watched video from last year to find out what was working best then and it seemed like I should work on permeating my curveball more. I've been focusing on a lot of other stuff lately, but I spent about 15 minutes visualizing my pitches, with most of that going to the curveball, and it seemed to work."
The increase in both quality and quantity of the breaking pitch explained the success in the extreme short term. But perhaps moreso than any other Minor Leaguer, Bauer has kept his focus on the long-term solutions that will help him find consistent success at the game's highest level.
Right now, that means a lot of mechanical work, or the aforementioned "neuromuscular programming" override. Among the fixes are keeping his front leg closed for a longer period of time during each pitch, trying to straighten his spine, working on the tilt of his body before and after, his landing spot and a host of other minor alterations.
"It's basically a bunch of small changes that on the whole ends up being a pretty big change," he said.
Bauer's biggest goal through the changes has been to retain two things -- his health and his command.
The 22-year-old right-hander injured his groin with the D-backs last June and still had issues in the offseason that kept him from working on his mechanics.
"All I wanted to do was get biomechanically efficient in my lower half and get really healthy," Bauer said. "It's tough to get work done in the offseason when you're hurt and I needed to take steps from making sure that never happens again."
Then there are the command issues that plagued him during his brief stay in the Major Leagues.
The third overall pick in the 2011 Draft was 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four starts for the D-backs, no thanks to the 13 walks he issued in 16 1/3 innings. The command troubles returned last weekend, but Bauer, who is likely to spend the immediate future honing his skills in Columbus, took the struggles in stride.
"It's just another day in the process of improving," he said. "You try to learn something and pick something up from it. I'm always trying to just get .0238 percent better every day. Yeah, it was on a bigger stage, and there are more people paying attention and more people telling me I [stink] on Twitter. But for me, I know it's just another day and go from there."
Bauer got support Saturday from Matt Carson, whose two-run homer in the sixth inning put the Clippers ahead.