CLEVELAND — Though he makes his final start of the first half Sunday, right-hander Trevor Bauer plans on being available to pitch two days later in the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. — and hopes he gets the opportunity to take the mound.
“I guess it’s also up to the manager of the game (Houston’s A.J. Hinch) who pitches. As far as I know, I’m available, but I don’t think anything’s like definitive one way or another,” said Bauer, who is on the All-Star Game roster for the first time in his career. “You know me. When’s the last time I took myself out of pitching anything? I threw 40 innings this offseason. I threw in my alumni game — four innings. Yeah, I’d like to pitch.”
Manager Terry Francona said team president Chris Antonetti has spoken with representatives from the Astros and that the Indians are on board with Bauer making an appearance, but only if it is out of necessity.
“We talked to (Bauer) about maybe just being available for extra innings, something like that,” Francona said. “I think there’s a proper way to go through the league and make sure you’re respectful to the game and to the coaches and manager that are running it. You don’t want to put them in a predicament.
“Trevor’s been really good about it. He said, ‘I’d like to throw a lot of innings for the Indians.’ We really appreciate (that). But out of respect to the game, just be available like if they need him. And then if he doesn’t pitch, he’d probably come out of the chute first (to start the second half). And then we’ll go from there.”
Bauer had worked the second-most innings (1291⁄3) in the majors through Wednesday, while ranking fourth with 168 strikeouts and seventh with a 2.30 ERA.
Francona confirmed that left-hander Andrew Miller (right knee inflammation) would face hitters Saturday, He’ll throw a live batting practice at Double-A Akron.
Miller has been sidelined since May 26, but is expected to begin a rehab assignment shortly after the All-Star break.
Kip, Kip, hooray
Second baseman Jason Kipnis entered Thursday batting just .223 over 84 games, but was hitting .323 (21-for-65) with 14 runs, five home runs and 14 RBIs over his last 20 games.
Francona said he has advised Kipnis to focus on how he’s hitting now, not on the struggles he endured over the first two-plus months.
“I’ve tried to remind him of that a couple times ’cause he’s actually done pretty well and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does better,” Francona said. “Now, his batting average isn’t going to reflect that like he’d like it to, but if that doesn’t beat him down, he’s got a chance to be a guy ... we’ve all seen when he gets hot what he can do.”
Kipnis extended his home on-base streak to 25 games Wednesday (dating back to May 3), which was tied with Texas’ Shin-Soo Choo for the second-longest active streak in the majors behind Boston’s J.D. Martinez (35).
Though the Yankees are one baseball’s best teams and the Indians had lost four of their last five games through Wednesday, New York’s visit comes at an ideal time, according to Francona.
“I think it’s good (in) one aspect,” he said. “You’re coming up on the break where guys are starting to ... you can see it, I don’t blame them, they’re looking to the (All-Star) break. But this team will get your attention in a hurry. So that’s good.
“We played them good in New York and we couldn’t finish anything (in the Yankees’ three-game sweep). That’s was when we were going through a real tough stretch in our bullpen. We know we have to play really well to beat them. They’re a really good team. They have a lot of ways to beat you, so we need to be at the top of our game.”
Bauer believes the Indians will be up to the task during the four-game series.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re focused on our team and how we can be the better team,” Bauer said. “We know we’re good enough to compete with anybody in the league. It’s about playing our brand of baseball and getting to the point where we’re firing on all cylinders.”
Third baseman Jose Ramirez, who will make his second straight All-Star start Tuesday, officially declined an invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday.
“He’s just giving other people a chance to win it,” Bauer joked of Ramirez, who entered Thursday ranked second in the American League with 27 home runs to match Albert Belle for the most in franchise history prior to the All-Star break. “I’m sure he would hit like 60 homers or something. It’s unbelievable. I was making fun of him the other day. I was like, ‘You only hit a homer after Lindor hits a homer.’ And then he went out and hit two homers (Wednesday) and looked at me (and shrugged). That’s all I’ve got on him.”
Francona was pleased with Ramirez’s decision to abstain from the Derby.
“I don’t think people realize the output of energy it is. It’s an incredible amount of energy that goes into it,” he said. “It’s also very good for the game. Fans love it. So, you know, I think if it’s your guy, you just hope it goes well and there aren’t any ramifications.”
Yonder Alonso became the fifth Indians player to reach the 50-RBI plateau Wednesday, joining Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley and Francisco Lindor. No other team in the majors has more than three.
Cleveland is also the only MLB team with three players with 60 or more RBIs — Ramirez, Lindor and Encarnacion.