LOS ANGELES—After a while, you run out of new ways to describe greatness.
When we shined the Golden Spikes Spotlight on Trevor Bauer back on April 18, his dominance was already becoming old hat.
"That's kind of how it feels—the ho-hum part. It's like, 'Eh,' " Bauer said then, after he threw a complete-game, four-hit shutout of Arizona, striking out 13.
If you were expecting a different reaction after what turned out to be his final career start in the Los Angeles Regional, after Bauer struck out 14 Fresno State hitters and allowed just a run on six hits in UCLA's 3-1 win, you were disappointed. Bauer does this every week—really. It was his ninth consecutive complete game, and his 14th double-digit strikeout game in 16 starts this spring. It improved him to 13-2, 1.25 on the season—tying him for the national lead in wins and moving him up to third in the national ERA race—and cemented him as Baseball America's 2011 College Player of the Year.
"The one thing Trevor is is very consistent," UCLA coach John Savage said. "He's the same guy in a lot of different situations—on the road, at home, in big games. I thought he was himself (against Fresno). That's what makes him so good. He wasn't anything spectacular beyond what he has been in the past. It was just Trevor being Trevor."
Trevor being Trevor meant Trevor blowing hitters away with a fastball that peaked repeatedly at 96 mph (even in the eighth inning) and sat at 93-95 for all nine innings. It meant a hammer curveball in the 75-78 range, a putaway slider at 81-83, a deceptive changeup and 84-85, a "reverse slider" that runs away from lefties and even a couple of splitters.
"I had all six pitches going today—it was good," Bauer said. "My reverse was really good today. I've kind of struggled with my feel for it lately, and I haven't thrown it too much, but I worked on it a lot this week. It was really good—it was a good weapon to lefties, and I threw it really effectively. My changeup was really good, got a couple weak contacts on it, and a couple of swing-and-misses. My fastball was OK—velocity was decent, location could have been a little bit better but was workable, my curveball was workable. My slider was, 'Eh.' "
There's that word again—"Eh."
Bauer had very little energy in the post-game press conference. He said he was "pretty wiped out" after giving everything he had on the mound—and listening to him grunt loudly after almost each one of his 133 pitches, it's no wonder he was drained.
Savage marvels at Bauer's ability to dig deep in tough spots, and the way he rises to the occasion against the best competition.
"Right when you think the guy is going to crack or not pitch as well, he goes out and out-does himself," Savage said. "He's as consistent as any guy I've ever been around, and he's as competitive a guy as I've ever been around. The guy just keeps coming at you and gets better as the game goes on."
Going Out In Style
In his final UCLA start against a very offensive Fresno State team, Bauer struck out the side in the fifth, seventh and eighth, and his final strikeout in the eighth broke the Pacific-10 Conference's single-season strikeout record. He surged past Tim Lincecum (199) and Mark Prior (202) on the list, finishing the season with 203, to go along with 36 walks in 137 innings. Through the end of regionals, Virginia's Danny Hultzen ranked second on the national strikeout list with 148.
Bauer is famously cerebral, of course, and it should be no surprise that he has a deep appreciation for the history of the game. His remarkable season has put him in rare company, and he knows it—and values it.
"There are certain achievements that are good, and they're a little surreal to me," Bauer said. "To get mentioned up there with the likes of Mark Prior and Tim Lincecum and Stephen Strasburg, with some of those stats, it's pretty cool."
In the preseason, Bauer confessed to harboring some apprehension that his unconventional training methods, unusual delivery and slight stature would negatively affect his draft stock. Two days after his final college start—and a day after UC Irvine ended UCLA's season in regionals—Bauer became the third overall pick in the draft, by the Diamondbacks. He found that pretty cool, too.
"It's extremely satisfying," he said on draft day. "It's a credit to all the hard work I've put in over the years—all the hours of prep, video analysis, conditioning on days you don't really want to be conditioning. And it's a credit to the D-Backs organization as well that they're willing to sit down and talk to me about why I do the things I do, and understand more about it. So it's a credit to them, and it's rewarding for me to know the hard work is paying off.
"Today is a very individual day, and yesterday was a team day. I wish today was another team day. But that being said, sometimes there's room for personal accomplishment and celebration of that, and I think today is that day. I'm almost at a loss for words at the satisfaction and excitement, and what I'm feeling today."
More than any other player in college baseball, Bauer has earned the right to be excited—finally—about what he has accomplished.