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Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer, in one-eyed-jack mode, throws three scoreless innings

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer throws against the San Diego Padres during the first inning March 6, 2021, in Phoenix.
The Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer, here pitching with his right eye closed in the first inning, gave up two hits and struck out three in three scoreless innings of a 2-1, seven-inning loss to San Diego.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

And for his next trick, Trevor Bauer will take the mound with one hand tied behind his back.

OK, that might be a stretch, even for a pitcher known to push the boundaries of his mental and physical training techniques, but one shouldn’t underestimate the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner who signed a three-year, $102-million deal with the Dodgers in February.

Bauer made his second spring start Saturday, giving up two hits and striking out three in three scoreless innings of a 2-1, seven-inning loss to the National League West rival San Diego Padres at Camelback Ranch.

The right-hander needed 27 pitches to complete a laborious first inning, which he ended by striking out Victor Caratini and Ha-Seong Kim with runners on second and third. Bauer delivered many of those pitches with his right eye closed.

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“I figured if they can’t score off of me with one eye open, it will be difficult to score off me with two eyes open,” said Bauer, whose fastball sat between 94-96 mph and touched 98 mph. “Just having a little bit of fun. There’s definitely a reason behind it.”

Tony Gonsolin follows up a strong performance by Trevor Bauer with two scoreless innings during a 2-1 spring training loss to the San Diego Padres.

Did Bauer care to share that reason?

“If I wanted to share,” he said, “I would have already.”

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Bauer said he goes into one-eyed-jack mode every day in bullpen, long-toss and live batting-practice sessions. Some days he closes his left eye. Some days he closes his right eye.

The approach “definitely takes away depth perception,” he said. Many eye doctors believe covering one eye strengthens the other. Bauer does it to challenge himself.

“I like making myself uncomfortable and throwing different stuff my way and trying to find a solution for it,” he said. “That’s how you improve. Find a way to make yourself uncomfortable, then get comfortable with it and do it again.”

How do opposing hitters feel about Bauer throwing 96-mph fastballs and a wide assortment of off-speed pitches with one eye closed?

“I don’t know,” he said. “You might have to ask them. I have very limited experience getting hitter feedback while doing it. I expect a lot more this year.”

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Manager Dave Roberts said he noticed Bauer close his right eye on a “handful of pitches” in the first.

“I guess when he can’t get his command, that kind of recalibrates him,” Roberts said. “I think there might have been one curve that he threw with both eyes closed, I don’t know. But there is a method to his madness, and he worked through it, so apparently that was the key.”

Bauer threw 52 pitches, 36 for strikes, in his outing and opened the game by losing a nine-pitch battle with Jurickson Profar, who singled to right. Tommy Pham walked and Austin Nola popped out to second.

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Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Bauer struck out Caratini and Kim with sharp breaking balls. He walked off the field pointing to his right eye and then exchanged words and a laugh with Profar.

“He just said it’s gonna be fun to compete against you this year, and I kind of laughed, said, ‘I’m looking forward to it,’ ” Bauer said. “It’s gonna be fun.”

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer talks with catcher Austin Barnes after warming up in the bullpen March 6, 2021, in Phoenix.
Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer talks with catcher Austin Barnes after warming up in the bullpen before Saturday’s game.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Especially when Bauer faces Padres third baseman Manny Machado, who has 10 hits, including four homers, in 17 career at-bats against Bauer. Machado has so owned Bauer that the pitcher has jokingly referred to the slugger as “my dad.”

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Machado was among a number of front-line Padres, including Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer, Wil Meyers and Trent Grisham, who did not travel to Camelback Ranch for Saturday’s game.

“I’m just mad that Manny didn’t make this trip, you know?” Bauer said. “He’s already ducking me. I wanted to see him.”

Bauer will see Machado soon enough, and he will get his fill of him this season. The Dodgers swept the Padres in October in a three-game NL Division Series that featured several angry exchanges between the teams.

The Dodgers’ success is largely due to the significant contribution they get from large number of players. The Padres are hoping to replicate the approach.

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In an effort to end the Dodgers’ eight-year reign as division champions, the Padres bolstered their rotation by acquiring Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, and they topped off a busy winter by locking up Tatis, the dynamic young shortstop, to a 14-year, $340-million contract.

Fans and players alike are eagerly anticipating a rivalry that is so intriguing that Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said, “We’re going to get 19 World Series games this year.” Bauer, who has spent most of his nine-year career in Cleveland, is looking forward to it.

“The higher the stakes, the more excited I get, the better I usually do,” Bauer said. “So I’m all in on that.”

Slow ride

Reliever Brandon Morrow, who returned to the Dodgers on a minor league deal after missing all of 2018 and 2019 because of elbow and nerve decompression surgeries, is not expected to pitch in an exhibition game.

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Roberts said the 36-year-old right-hander, who emerged as a dominant setup man during the Dodgers’ 2017 World Series run, has not suffered any physical setbacks.

“He’s kind of on the slower program,” Roberts said. “We just want to appreciate what he’s gone through the last couple of years and have him build up arm strength by throwing live batting-practice and bullpen [sessions].”

Roberts hopes Morrow is “peaking” by the April 1 season opener.

“To think Brandon would be on a regular [spring] program was not realistic,” Roberts said. “He’s doing great. He understands the situation that would put him in the best spot to help us this year, and that’s what we decided on.”


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