Former Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer makes Japanese baseball debut nearly 2 years after last MLB appearance

Trevor Bauer told reporters that he felt good about his debut with the Yokohama BayStars. (AP Photo/Stephen Wade)
Trevor Bauer told reporters that he felt good about his debut with the Yokohama BayStars. (AP Photo/Stephen Wade)

Trevor Bauer has not pitched in an MLB game since June 2021. Unable to find another team in the major leagues after a year-plus suspension and subsequent release from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 32-year-old made his debut for the Yokohama Baystars' minor-league team Sunday.

He reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Japanese Nippon Professional League club in March. An announced 2,600 spectators turned out for his debut at a park that usually sees a few hundred fans.

Bauer allowed four hits and zero runs and struck out six in four innings. The team said the game drew 77,000 streaming views, a stark increase from its normal average of 5,000 views.

"I thought the day went really well," Bauer said via the Associated Press. "The stuff was good, the command was good, the health was good. I feel like I'm ready to compete now, but I have to build my pitch count."

After his long absence, it was unclear how soon Bauer would be ready to take the mound. After winning the NL Cy Young Award in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the right-hander spent part of the 2021 season on administrative leave after he was accused of choking a California woman to unconsciousness and assaulting her during a sexual encounter. Bauer has maintained that the incident was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.

MLB investigated the accusations against Bauer for months and announced in April 2022 that it was suspending him an unprecedented 324 games, or two full seasons, under its policy covering domestic violence and sexual assault.

The day he was suspended, a third woman accused him of sexual assault. In December, an arbitrator lowered the suspension to 194 games, paving the way for Bauer's reinstatement. The Dodgers announced in January that they were releasing him with one year remaining on his three-year, $102 million contract.

According to Bauer, the time off didn't impact his performance.

"I've stayed ready," he said. "I didn't feel like I'd been away at all. The game came to me well. It didn't speed up on me. I commanded the ball. There really wasn't any adjustment. Just competitive baseball instead of throwing to hitters in a cage."