CLEVELAND -- Trevor Bauer spun on the mound, pumped his right fist and then pounded his glove. The crowd at Progressive Field roared along with the Indians pitching prospect, who had just struck out Yasmani Grandal to escape a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning on Wednesday.
"I'm a competitor, so I was just kind of in the moment," Bauer said. "I got a big out and was kind of pumped up about it."
Finally, after all the hype, after all the discussion of retooled mechanics and detailed video sessions, Bauer showed Cleveland his potential in a spot start in the second game of a traditional doubleheader with the Padres. This day was what Indians fans have waited for since the Tribe pried Bauer from the D-backs two winters ago.
The Indians were on the unfortunate end of a 2-1 loss in the final game of this three-game Interleague set with San Diego, but Cleveland took the series two games to one. In the second half of the twin bill on Wednesday, an instant-replay review in the first inning and a subdued Tribe offense spoiled an otherwise promising evening for Bauer.
Cleveland promoted Bauer from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game to serve as the roster's 26th man, but the young right-hander will surely have fans calling for him to stick around.
"I thought he was really good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He threw all his pitches the first time through the order. He worked ahead. The second time through the order, he fell behind a few times, but he pitched himself back in the count. With his stuff and the way he's trying to attack the zone, his progress is going to come quick."
A year ago, Bauer labored from Spring Training through the end of the Minor League season, providing the Indians with four enigmatic spot starts along the way. Both Bauer and the Indians made it clear that the pitcher was undergoing drastic changes to his delivery with the hope of avoiding the kind of lower-half injuries that hindered him with Arizona in 2012.
Bauer's violent motion looked more controlled this past spring, when he also flashed a considerable improvement with his pitch velocity. That continued on Wednesday against the Padres, who had to deal with a fastball from Bauer that sat around 95-96 mph for much of the game. The righty established a career high with eight strikeouts and turned in six impressive innings.
Bauer scattered four hits, allowed two runs (one earned) and issued two walks in the 99-pitch effort. Combined with his Opening Day start for Columbus on Friday, Bauer has piled up 17 strikeouts against four walks with just two earned runs allowed in 12 innings this season.
This marked Bauer's ninth start in the Majors, but he said Wednesday was the most comfortable he has felt in that environment.
"By far," Bauer said.
Things did not go Bauer's way out of the gates though.
In the first inning, Everth Cabrera reached base when Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera made a throwing error on a leadoff grounder. The next batter, Chris Denorfia, drilled a pitch from Bauer deep to right field, where outfielder Elliot Johnson ran down the ball. Johnson appeared to make the catch, but after bracing himself against the right-field wall, he dropped the ball on the transfer.
First-base umpire and crew chief Bob Davidson ruled it a missed catch, and Denorfia was awarded a double by the official scorer. Francona challenged the ruling, but the call stood after an instant-replay review. Major League Baseball recently clarified the guidelines for what constitutes a catch, and the ruling on Johnson's attempt was technically correct.
"It was a catch. It was an out," he said. "I'm not really sure what they're going off of, but I think there needs to be clarification on what defines the act of dropping it, because it can get ridiculous. It can get out of hand."
Seth Smith then used a groundout to plate Cabrera, putting San Diego ahead, 1-0.
From there, Bauer settled down, allowing only one hit in a span of 16 batters between the first and fifth innings. Cleveland struggled to solve San Diego starter Robbie Erlin, whose lone blemish in his six innings was a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Mike Aviles in the third inning that pulled the game into a 1-1 deadlock.
"Their guy, he didn't light up the radar gun, but he had some finish on that fastball," Francona said. "It got by us. He missed a lot of bats."
The Padres finally snapped out of their scoreless spell in the sixth , when Cabrera led off with a single to center field. Bauer then hit Smith with a pitch with one out and issued a walk to Yonder Alonso to load the bases. Chase Headley followed by sending a pitch from Bauer into left field for an RBI single that put Cleveland down, 2-1.
Bauer avoided having the inning unravel further by inducing a fly ball off the bat of Jedd Gyorko into foul territory, where catcher Carlos Santana made the out. Bauer collected himself again and fired a 96-mph fastball by the swinging bat of Grandal, bringing an emphatic end to the inning.
"There are a lot of encouraging things," Francona said of Bauer's outing.
Bauer took the loss, but Cleveland might have received a glimpse of the rotation's future.
"He was lights out, man," Johnson said. "He was a power pitcher today throwing gas right by guys. He was throwing his off-speed stuff for strikes. He was really, really impressive. He was a big leaguer today -- no doubt about it."