PHOENIX -- An hour and half before Tuesday's first pitch at Chase Field, a large crowd gathered around the Diamondbacks bullpen in left field. It was an unusual sight and could only mean one thing: Trevor Bauer was pitching.
Fans may have enjoyed watching Bauer's famous stretching and warmup routine more than what the rookie did in the game, as he struggled and exited early in his home debut and the Padres won 9-5.
Bauer's Chase Field debut was even shorter than his major league debut last Thursday in Atlanta. He lasted just 3 13 innings Tuesday, giving up six earned runs on six hits, four walks and four strikeouts -- hardly what the buzzing home crowd had hoped to see.
Two starts is far too small of a sample size to make concrete assertions about Bauer's ability and future in the big leagues, but in those outings one thing has been clear: Bauer has some catching up to do.
Bauer, just 21 years old, is the first player taken in the 2011 First Year Player Draft to reach the majors. His dominant rise through the minor leagues was astonishing. But now, at baseball's highest level, Bauer has strides to make before he's truly pitching on a major league level.
"Obviously everything didn't go as I'd hoped it would, but I think I've thrown the ball fairly well," Bauer said. "I'm just adjusting to a new level."
Specifically, Bauer is adjusting to the ability of major league hitters. Major league hitters won't swing at the same things minor league hitters will, and they're more likely to make a pitcher pay for a mistake.
"Big league hitters don't mess around," D-backs catcher Miguel Montero said after the game. "He's just got to learn a little more about the big league hitters."
Bauer seemed acutely aware of the very same thing. These hitters have better eyes and aren't as easily fooled by his extensive arsenal. They know how to work counts more effectively. Bauer mentioned both attributes and said it's up to him to learn how to pitch at this level.
Bauer might have had a more chances to adjust in his first two starts, but command issues knocked him out early both times. He held nothing back Tuesday in critiquing his inability to locate as he has wanted to so far.
"With the exception of the first two innings in Atlanta, I haven't had exceptional command," Bauer said. "My curveball's been terrible, so I don't know if they're going to swing at it when I throw it well or not because I haven't thrown it well yet."
The adjustment to the next level for Bauer, though, isn't just about pitch selection, command or managing major league hitters. It's also about getting comfortable on the mound at the highest level, something Bauer said he hasn't quite done so far.
"I was almost pitching defensively (tonight)," Bauer said. "Down in Double-A and Triple-A, I was comfortable. If I threw a pitch and it was a ball, I was perfectly fine with it because I knew I was going to throw the next pitch and execute it. Tonight, mentally, it was kind of like 'Oh, I missed on that pitch. Now what do I do?' instead of just thinking 'OK, the game situation calls for this, so I'm going to throw it.' I have to get back to attacking hitters."
Bauer did seem to attack in the first inning Tuesday, as he got his first three batters to strike out swinging while throwing just 13 pitches. The second inning, however, highlighted Bauer's command issues that lead to walks and high pitch counts.
"He's got to learn to pitch to contact, getting early contact instead of striking out everybody," Montero said. "He was trying to trick hitters too much early in the count, then you get behind."
Though Bauer certainly has not been pleased with his results so far, he has shown no decrease in confidence. He remained as self-assured as ever following Tuesday's game, emphasizing more than once he has no reason to panic or start changing his approach and routine.
The D-backs will undoubtedly take the same approach. It seems clear the D-backs are prepared to let Bauer learn at this level, rather than shuttling him between the minor leagues or pushing him to the bullpen.
"We know he's got great stuff and we're going to try to refine some things so he can have more success next time out," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's tough. There's a lot of pressure on him, a lot of buildup about him. That's just part of being in the big leagues."