Bieber to Start Thursday After Another IL Pitcher of the Week Award
Bob Toth | On 31, May 2018
The 2018 season has been very kind to Cleveland Indians’ minor league pitching prospect Shane Bieber and things are only getting better – he is going to have a most memorable 23rd birthday to boot.
Following the Indians’ 9-6 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night, manager Terry Francona announced that the young right-hander would make his Major League debut on Thursday in a starting nod against the Minnesota Twins. On Tuesday afternoon, the International League announced that Bieber had been named its Pitcher of the Week for games played between May 21 and May 27.
Bieber’s second straight Pitcher of the Week award from the league home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers followed a seven-inning rain-shortened no-hitter hurled on Saturday against the Gwinnett Stripers. The weekly honor was the fourth of his career and his third this season, including an April acknowledgement from the Eastern League while he was still pitching for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
The Orange, California, native has made an incredible and rapid climb through the Indians’ farm system in his short time with the organization. He was a fourth round pick by the Tribe in the 2016 draft out of UC Santa Barbara and pitched briefly later that season at short-season Mahoning Valley, appearing in nine games and putting up numbers barely visible with a magnifying glass – a 0.38 ERA (one earned run and two runs in total in 24 innings of work), a 0.50 WHIP, a .122 batting average against, and a 21/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He got the tour of the lower levels of professional baseball in 2017. He began the year with five starts at Class-A Lake County, going 2-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 29 innings. He struck out 31 and walked just one.
He was promoted to High-A Lynchburg on May 5, just over a month into the season. He would spend the majority of the year there, going 6-1 in 14 starts with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He struck out 82 batters and walked four in 90 innings.
It was onward to Double-A Akron on July 24, where he wrapped up the minor league schedule. He made nine starts, going 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with 49 strikeouts and five walks in 54 1/3 innings. In his three stops in 2017, he went a combined 10-5 in 28 starts with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, with an impressive 162 strikeouts to just ten walks in 173 1/3 innings.
Bieber returned to Akron to start this season, but his stay there was short. He claimed an Eastern League Pitcher of the Week nod in April and went 3-0 in five starts for the ‘Ducks with a 1.16 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP, striking out 30 and walking one in 31 innings before a promotion to Triple-A Columbus on May 3. He has made five starts there, going 2-1 with a 1.05 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP with 31 strikeouts and two walks in 34 1/3 innings. He was recipient of back-to-back International League Pitcher of the Week awards, with the final one highlighted by his rain-shortened no-hitter, when he faced the minimum over seven innings in his first career complete game.
In parts of three seasons on the farm, Bieber has made 46 starts and one relief appearance, posting a 15-6 record with a 2.19 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, a .240 batting average against, and an unbelievable strikeout-to-walk ratio of 244/15 in 262 2/3 innings (just over 16 strikeouts per every one walk surrendered).
It will be a one-and-done for the birthday boy on Thursday, but his presence on the 40-man roster means that he could come back into play again as the season progresses. The starting rotation has been used heavily in the first two months of the season, even though all of the starters have remained healthy. His teammate from Columbus, Adam Plutko, appears to have supplanted Josh Tomlin in the starting rotation for the time being, but that could change with continued strong outings from Bieber.
Bieber will be the youngest pitcher to make his Major League debut for the Indians since Kyle Crockett (22 years, 152 days) came on in relief on May 16, 2014, and the youngest starting pitcher to debut for the club since Alex White (22 years, 244 days) made his big league debut on April 30, 2011. Trevor Bauer made his Indians debut at the age of 22 years and 79 days, but had started his MLB career with the Arizona Diamondbacks the previous season.
Photo: Cathryn Wood/Columbus Clippers