April 18, 2024

Trevor Bauer still hasn’t been signed by a major league team since being released by the Dodgers 14 months ago, after the completion of his suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy.

However, on Sunday, the embattled pitcher is expected to return to the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch spring training facility to participate in an organized game against minor-leaguers with the club.

How?

Bauer will be playing for a team called Asian Breeze, a traveling club from Japan that plays scrimmage games against squads of minor-league players from MLB organizations, hoping to get its players noticed by professional scouts.

Bauer’s game will take place on one of the back training fields at Camelback Ranch, and is unlikely to feature any players from the Dodgers’ major leaguer roster (they’ll be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in a Cactus League game at the Camelback Ranch stadium that afternoon).

Asian Breeze has made similar trips to Camelback Ranch in previous years for scrimmages against Dodgers’ minor-leaguers — albeit none with a player like Bauer on its roster.

“Asian Breeze is extremely excited to announce that Trevor Bauer will be making his Asian Breeze debut on March 10th against the Los Angeles Dodgers Organization,” the team said in a press release on its website.

The Dodgers declined to comment.

Asian Breeze is a self-described “tryout program” that charges players nearly $2,600 for a 20-day barnstorming trip to the U.S. Its rosters typically feature a mixed bag of talent, from fringe pro prospects to former youth players with little chance of extending their careers.

That the team’s Sunday visit will include an appearance from Bauer, however, came as a surprise to officials within the Dodgers organization, which has distanced itself from the pitcher since releasing him in January 2023.

The Dodgers aren’t expected to cancel the game, nor interfere with Bauer’s planned participation.

There is a belief among some Dodgers personnel, who were not authorized to speak publicly, that doing so would have only increased the attention on an already awkward situation.

Bauer originally signed with the Dodgers in 2021 on a three-year, $102-million contract, arriving as a reigning Cy Young Award winner expected to bolster the rotation of the then-defending World Series champions.

Instead, the right-hander made only 17 starts before allegations of sexual assault first surfaced against him. In July 2021, he was placed on administrative leave as MLB opened an investigation. In April 2022, the league suspended him for 324 games after multiple women with allegations against him cooperated with the investigation.

Though that suspension was later reduced to 194 games after an appeal to an independent arbitrator, it still marked the biggest punishment MLB had administered under its domestic violence policy.

Bauer has denied all the allegations against him and was never charged with a crime by law enforcement. He was reinstated by MLB at the end of 2022, making him eligible to sign with big-league clubs last offseason.

However, when none came calling, Bauer decided to play in Japan last year with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.

This offseason, the pitcher’s hopes of signing with an MLB team have again failed to materialize.

“I don’t believe that I was given a lifetime ban,” Bauer told The Times in an interview last month. He later added: “I have served my time. Do I not deserve an opportunity to come back?”

According to a person with knowledge of Bauer’s agreement with Asian Breeze, who was granted anonymity, the pitcher was asked by the team to throw “a few games” during its trip to Arizona this spring. The person also said it was up to Asian Breeze to pick which games — and against which opponents — Bauer would pitch.

That didn’t stop some within the Dodgers organization, who were granted anonymity, from wondering whether Bauer’s scheduled outing Sunday was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Either way, the team isn’t planning to stop the game from happening, or prevent Bauer from taking the mound.

Three years removed from his final Dodgers appearance, it will be the closest Bauer has been to MLB-affiliated competition since.

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