CLEVELAND -- After facing live hitters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower-right leg, Trevor Bauer jokingly told manager Terry Francona he was available to pitch Tuesday night against the White Sox.
“I’m glad he feels that way. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s nice to hear him say that,” Francona said of Bauer, who has been sidelined since Aug. 12. “I thought he took a good step in the right direction. So what we’ll do next is we’ll sit with him and the medical staff and figure out where the next step is. That’s where we’re at.
“We know Trevor wants to pitch. From our standpoint, the quicker we can get him in a game, without risk, the better. But that’s where you gotta listen to the medical guys, too.”
Bauer threw three simulated innings (17-19 pitches in each), facing September call-ups Adam Rosales, Brian Barnes and Eric Haase prior to the series opener against Chicago. He said things went smoother than his first time back on the mound for a bullpen session Saturday at Progressive Field.
“I feel better. I don’t know how exactly to expand on that,” he said afterward. “I think I have to pass some (tests) -- fielding my position, covering first and some bunts, stuff like that. Based on the information I have right now, I would feel comfortable execution-wise being able to go into a big league game. So, we’re close.”
During his bullpen session Saturday, Bauer’s velocity was down and his delivery looked out of sync. Both were improved this time around.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable to think somebody’s going to be touching 98 (mph) at 3 o’clock against Rosales and Barnes,” Francona said. “But I thought his velocity ticked up. I thought his delivery had more rhythm to it -- looked more like Trevor.”
“It felt a lot better today,” Bauer said. “Again, that’s that external stimulus. I’ll have to check the video, make sure that the objective feedback is consistent with the subjective feedback. But, as I feel currently, right now, with the information I have, I’d say I was a lot better.”
Francona was asked if the next step for Bauer could be an appearance in a game before the regular season is complete.
“I guess it’s a scenario. I don’t know if it’s likely, but that’s one of them,” he said. “His arm’s been fine. We’re just trying to make sure that that ankle can withstand everything that we’re asking him to do. Nobody has a crystal ball, so you listen to your medical people and kinda do what they tell ya.”
There may not be enough time for Bauer to work his way back into the rotation. Team president Chris Antonetti told reporters early this week that Bauer could wind up pitching out of the bullpen during the postseason.
“We can’t make that decision until we have a lot more information,” Francona said. “Right now, we’re just trying to figure out what our next step is.”
Bauer bristled when asked if he had an issue with pitching in a relief role.
“I don’t control that, so you’ll have to talk to somebody else about that,” he said. “I say this all the time -- I pitch when they tell me to pitch, whether that’s in the starting rotation, in the bullpen, not at all. That’s their decision.
“I have no interest in that question. It’s not my decision. I can’t control it. They decide the roster. Tito chooses who pitches. I’m just trying to get back to healthy so I can try to help the team. If you want to go ask them and try to pin them on an answer before anybody else, then go for it, but as of now I don’t have an answer for that. I’m not going to talk about it any further.”
Have a seat
Edwin Encarnacion was out of the lineup Tuesday, but Francona said it had nothing to do with the slugger leaving Saturday’s game after suffering a minor ankle sprain.
“He’s fine, he’s fine. He could have played (Tuesday),” Francona said of Encarnacion, who has at least 30 homers for the seventh straight season, and with 99 RBIs, is on the verge of reaching the century mark for the seventh straight time. “I told him to take BP and run and we’ll put him in there (tonight).”
With the division clinched and homefield advantage in the postseason out of reach, the Indians entered Tuesday with little to play for over their final 13 regular season games.
Francona was asked what his team needed to do to hit its stride in October.
“Well, it’s not that easy,” he said. “You can’t just draw it up where ... whoever we play is going to have something to do with that. We do what we always do. Regardless of who plays and who doesn’t play, you show up and play the game right. That’s the best thing you can do.
“There’s no pill to swallow, there’s no formula other than just play the game right, prepare and try to put yourself in the best position to feel good about your game. Then you go play.”
The Indians’ 10 division titles since 1994 are tied for the third-most in the majors behind the Yankees’ 14 and the Braves’ 12. ... Michael Brantley entered Tuesday batting .314 since 2014, which accounted for the second-highest in the majors behind Houston’s Jose Altuve (.332). ... Tonight, 7:10, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Carrasco (16-8, 3.41) vs. Covey (5-13, 5.64).