Terry Francona may be Shane Bieber's biggest fan

Manager excited prior to righty's start, even more so after

Alex Hooper
June 23, 2018 - 12:36 am
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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians may not have had to look very far for another impressive member of their bullpen. Righty Shane Bieber arrived quickly, less than two years after being drafted in the third round of the 2016 amateur draft.

It has taken him even less time to impress.

Through three career starts, the 23-year-old looks at home among his elite staff-mates in the Indians rotation.

The righty has ‘come as advertised,’ as Manager Terry Francona said following Bieber’s second start last Sunday, loading the zone up with strikes. On Friday night against the Detroit Tigers, Bieber did not only keep the ball in the zone, he abused those who dared to swing.

Bieber picked up 18 swinging strikes on 97 pitches, 13 of which came on his two breaking pitches (10 sliders, 3 curves). He used his four-seam fastball to set up his breaking pitches to the tune of 15 called strikes and 11 balls in play.

That whole ‘came as advertised’ thing? It happened again on Friday, this time with the former target of the advertisement being the advertiser.

"Remember I was telling you before the game I was excited to watch him pitch? That's why,” Francona said. “I mean, shoot. He pounded the zone with three different pitches, he changed speeds. We made an error, two pitches later he got a double play. One inning he had a swinging bunt and a bloop to right, then he attacked the zone and got out of it. I mean, man that was fun to watch.

With his nine strikeouts on Friday, Bieber raised his K% to 28.9% through 18 1/3 innings of work. The righty had been right on par with his minor league K-rates entering the game, 24.6% in five starts at Double-A Akron and 25.8% in seven starts at Triple-A Columbus.

His numbers are now the best of his season and… the best on the team.

Bieber also became the first Indians pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1964 to record at least six strikeouts in his first three career appearances, and the 21st since 1908. Bieber’s 22 strikeouts, while slightly a product of the direction of baseball, is the third most for an Indians pitcher in his first three appearances.

Many pitchers have immediate success when entering the big leagues, only to find issues later on when big league hitters get ahold of scouting reports with a decent sample size. That being said, what Bieber has been doing is what he has always done, and it has surely been working.

The rookie is not in a hurry to change his approach.

“For me right now, it’s early, but I’m just trying to go out there and attack as much as I can,” he said. “I think that’s the best way to go about things, especially early on, is to be aggressive and see if your stuff plays. Fortunately, I’ve been able to execute that the first three outings and I’m looking to carry that through.”

One thing that has already changed for Bieber is that he has been able to settle in. The kid compared to Cy Young winner Corey Kluber for his ability to replicate a successful routine has gotten his first opportunity to do so, instead of being shuttled to and from Columbus.

He even got the opportunity to take a step back before tossing his latest gem.

“I think we’re super routine-oriented as a clubhouse and we preach that from the first step on the mound,” Bieber added. “Being able to set into a routine and also actually the rain delay helped out. I sat down. I had nerves before, but the rain delay kind of calmed me down and I tried to stay occupied and locked in and loose. That definitely helped me go out there and pitch my game and settle in.”