YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Shunned by Major League Baseball clubs, Trevor Bauer is trying to find his way in Japan, where fans are drawn by his celebrity status and seem unconcerned by domestic violence allegations against him.
The 2020 Cy Young Award winner pitched his first competitive game in almost two years Sunday and said he is almost ready to debut in Japanese baseball.
Pitching for the Yokohama BayStars' minor league team in nearby Yokosuka, Japan -- the home of the United States Seventh Fleet -- Bauer allowed four hits and no runs and struck out six in four innings before 2,600 fans.
The minor league park usually draws a few hundred spectators. The team said streaming views reached 77,000 -- 15 times the usual 5,000.
"I thought the day went really well," Bauer said. "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."
Bauer, 32, said he was not sure when he would be ready to start for Yokohama. He seems likely to get another minor league start before moving up.
Despite not pitching in a competitive game since 2021, he said it all felt familiar.
"I've stayed ready," Bauer 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."
Bauer is in Japan on a one-year deal that could let him prove himself and return to MLB, where he was unable to find work this season after an arbitrator reduced his unprecedented 324-game suspension for violating the league's domestic violence and sexual assault policy.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Bauer in April 2022 after a San Diego woman said he beat and sexually abused her in 2021.
Bauer has maintained he did nothing wrong, saying everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.
After joining his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2021 season, Bauer was 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts before being placed on paid leave. The Dodgers cut him in January but owe him $22.5 million this season.
Fans in Japan don't seem bothered by Bauer's past. Hundreds lined up outside the stadium after he pitched, hoping for a glimpse or maybe an autograph. Dozens wore his BayStars jersey with his No. 96, chosen because that's his goal for his average fastball velocity: 96 mph.
"I felt like I was pretty close to 100 percent today," Bauer said. "Obviously, I have to have a couple more outings to get up the pitch count. But I feel 100%."