03/05/12 3:05 PM ET
Bauer adjusting to life as potential big leaguer
Spring a learning experience for righty, fellow prospect Skaggs
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
It was 12:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the team's first meeting, and the pitching prospect figured he had plenty of time to spare. The club's first pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft was ready in five or six minutes, took a seat and waited for the chat to begin.
In no time, Bauer's teammates gave him his first big league lesson: If you arrive on time then you are late, and if you are not early enough, you're also late. The rule applies if you are the first pick in the Draft, or the last.
The next day, Bauer showed up to the ballpark two hours early.
"I guess I was the last guy in," said Bauer, the No. 1 prospect on the D-backs' Top 20 list. "Who did not give me a hard time? It was all good-natured, but they let me hear it."
The young pitcher better get used to it. There is no denying the talent level for young hurlers like Bauer and Tyler Skaggs (No. 3 on the D-backs' Top 20 list), but it's hard to ignore the fact that the young men still have work to do before they are ready to play in the big leagues for D-backs manager Kirk Gibson.
"I want them to have an understanding of what it takes to be a Diamondback," Gibson said. "Bauer has got a great arm, and so does Skaggs, but in our view there is so much more to being a Diamondback in the Major Leagues and be a champion-type player. Those are the things we try to teach in Spring Training."
Gibson's list of to-do's for Bauer and Skaggs starts with the pitchers becoming better fielders. They'll also have to understand the importance of holding runners on base and pitch sequences.
Moreover, Gibson doesn't want his pitchers to be an automatic out every time they step in the batter's box, which means they'll have to be productive at the plate. Bauer and Skaggs should expect to get an earful if they can't lay down a bunt.
"If [starting pitchers] want to stay in the game, you have to be able to handle the bat," Gibson said. "We have to be better at bunting, period. It was brutal. It was not acceptable at all. I want to be able to slash more and hit and run with our pitchers more. It's going to be a lot of work but the way I look it, it's a great experience. We get to know them and they get to know us."
The D-backs know all about Bauer. He excelled at UCLA and gained national attention for his pregame warmups, his stretching pattern and his long-toss. That routine, combined with his work ethic and natural abilities, has helped him become the pitcher he is today.
The hitter he is today? Well, that's another story. Bauer has not hit in a game since his freshman year of high school.
How well can Bauer hold runners on? That's also to be determined.
"It's just trying to pick up the little things that go into winning baseball games," Bauer said. "If you can win an extra game a year because you can hold guys on or bunt and five guys can do that, that's five wins and that can be the difference between a playoff berth and sitting at home in October. It's definitely important, and I'm trying to learn it all."
The pitching? That's the easy part.
In his Cactus League debut on Saturday against the Rockies, Bauer retired all six hitters he faced -- two by strikeouts -- throwing 22 pitches. The right-hander went 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA in seven pro starts for Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile last season.
"The on-the-field stuff, I am comfortable with," Bauer said. "It's baseball, and I've been doing it my whole life. It's the scheduling and when to get here, getting to know everybody and the training staff, that's new. It's a lot of information, so my mind is a little scrambled on that part, but I'm getting there."
Bauer started in place of Skaggs, who was scratched because of shoulder tenderness. Skaggs is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Indians.
Last season, Skaggs went 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 27 combined starts for Visalia and Mobile.
"I just want to build off last year's season and come in here and work on being a better pitcher," Skaggs said. "This year, it's all about playing baseball and not just about pitching. It's about the whole game in general. It's an eye-opening experience, but it's been fun."
Skaggs pitched in three big league games during Spring Training for the D-backs last year and admitted to being a little nervous in the bullpen. That's not the case this time around, and that's a good thing.
The dynamic duo are expected to start the season in the Minor Leagues but could see action with the big league club sometime during the campaign.
"When it is all said and done, we are going to take 25 guys, but history will tell them that we are going to need more than 25 guys to get to where we want to go," Gibson said. "If you go down to the Minor Leagues, you put your head down and you don't feel sorry for yourself. You pick right up where you left off and you lead the people. There is a pace about it. There is a mentality about it. There are no days off. That's one of our philosophies."
The education of Bauer and Skaggs continues.