Trevor Bauer has had a solid season for Cleveland, posting a 4.22 ERA in 22 starts while striking out 124 batters in 130 innings as a 23-year-old, but his first-inning struggles have the Indians talking to him about making changes.
Bauer has a 5.14 ERA in the first inning and had a particularly rough opening frame Thursday, after which manager Terry Francona told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
We can’t keep getting out to deficits like that. He just worked behind in the count the first time and a half through the order. The second time and a half through the order, he worked ahead and the results were drastically different.
I just think Trevor tries to find him pitches right away in the game and sometimes it takes a while. That’s why we’ve talking to him about simplifying things early. But he’s a stubborn kid and he’s come a long way. You’re not always going to get it in one jump. Sometimes it take a a while to be a finished product.
The “he’s a stubborn kid” part played a role in the Diamondbacks trading Bauer to the Indians for pennies on the dollar, but for the most part Francona and Cleveland have to be very happy with his progress this season. He’s got nearly a strikeout per inning while limiting homers and cutting his walk rate from horrible to merely bad. And at age 23 he looks like a potential long-term building block for the Indians.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.