The latest example came in Cleveland's 7-5 comeback win over the Twins on Tuesday night, when Bauer surrendered five runs to the first five batters he faced in the first inning. The right-hander then settled in, featured his fastball more as his outing lengthened, and retired 14 of the final 15 hitters he faced before the bullpen took over.
On the season, the 23-year-old Bauer now has given up 12 earned runs (the most of any inning) in the first, making for a bloated 5.68 ERA. He has surrendered 18 earned runs in the first inning (6.08 ERA) over the course of his brief big league career.
Asked about the issue on Wednesday, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said the problem is not as bad as it seems on the surface.
"When we ultimately looked at it," Callaway said, "like really looked at the numbers, his OPS against him and stuff like that is not as bad as later in the game. So, we all have this perception that he's really bad at the beginning of the game, but the numbers don't really show that."
As Callaway noted, hitters have posted a .711 OPS against Bauer in the first inning this year, marking the third-lowest showing among the first six innings for the pitcher. In the first three innings combined, Bauer has allowed a .716 OPS (57 innings), compared to a .750 OPS for the the fourth through the sixth (48 innings) and a 1.045 OPS for the seventh and eighth combined (6 2/3 innings).
Before each of his past three starts, Bauer has tried to simulate a game pace in his pregame bullpen session, pausing for around 15 seconds between throws. It worked for his outing on Aug. 13 against the D-backs, who managed only two runs in his eight innings. The technique was not as successful in the previous start on Aug. 8, when the Yankees struck for five runs in the first.
"I'm 1-2, 33 percent," Bauer quipped about the approach.
Callaway said it could simply be a case of the first inning getting in a young pitcher's head.
"Anything can become mental if it's talked about enough or thought too much about," Callaway said. "What we talked about [Wednesday] was, make a little bit different of an approach, as far as the way he's attacking hitters early in the game. Get more on the plate. Don't try to be so fine. Setting up more on the plate with the catcher and letting his stuff play a little bit better."