Last season, Shane Bieber proved that his nearly spotless record in his debut season in 2016 with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers was no fluke, appearing at three different levels of the Indians organization while putting up strong numbers at each stop.
On Monday, the Akron right-hander was recognized by the Eastern League for his dominant start to the 2018 season when he was named its Pitcher of the Week for games played between April 5 and April 15.
Bieber took home his second career pitcher of the week honor after an impressive start to his 2018 campaign. The number eight prospect (MLB Pipeline) in the Indians organization was previously named a Pitcher of the Week in June of 2017 by the Carolina League while pitching for the Lynchburg Hillcats.
The 22-year-old starter has shown impeccable control throughout his professional career and that continued in a pair of starts during the award period. He worked 13 scoreless innings in his two starts, striking out 17 batters, walking none, and allowing just six hits while earning one win.
He made his debut in Altoona against the Curve on April 5 as the RubberDucks’ opening day starter. He worked six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine. He faced just three over the minimum and threw 53 of his 72 pitches for strikes.
Bieber struck out a pair in the first looking and added another looking in the second when the Curve got their first base runner on an error by shortstop Willi Castro. He struck out another batter swinging in the third and two more in the fourth, one looking and one swinging, around a one-out single for Altoona’s first hit of the game.
Akron’s offense put up a three-spot in the top of the fifth to give him a lead to work with and he protected it in his final two innings of work. He gave up a one-out single in the fifth, but added another strikeout looking and he struck out the final two batters that he faced to finish the sixth, still up 3-0.
The RubberDucks bullpen would blow the lead in the bottom of the eighth, giving up a two-run double, an RBI-single, and a three-run home run to give the Curve a big 6-3 lead. Akron would plate a pair in the ninth, but it was not enough in the 6-5 loss.
Pitching on normal rest on April 10 in Binghamton against the Rumble Ponies, he shut down another offense. He would throw seven scoreless innings in New York, allowing four hits while striking out eight. He again faced three over the minimum, throwing 64 of 85 pitches for strikes.
Bieber allowed a single in the first with two outs, but no further damage. He worked easy second and third innings, striking out Tim Tebow looking to end the second inning. He faced his first real threat of the 2018 season in the fourth after giving up a double and a single to start the inning, but with runners on the corners and nobody out, he struck out Tomas Nido and got a double play grounder to escape harm.
After dodging the threat, he locked in and allowed just one more runner to reach. He struck out a pair in the fifth and added two more in the sixth on called strike threes after Akron put up four runs in the road half of the frame. He struck out his final two of the night in the seventh around a two-out single to end his outing. This time, his bullpen protected his lead, as Jordan Milbrath worked two innings and allowed just one run to secure the 5-1 win.
Bieber showed no negative effects from his award announcement in his start on Wednesday. He fired his third straight scoreless outing in his first start of the season at Akron’s Canal Park. Facing Altoona for the second time in three starts, he threw seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and no walks while striking out six in his second straight win. Through three starts and 20 scoreless innings, he has struck out 23, given up just ten hits, and has issued no walks.
The 6’3” Bieber was a fourth round pick by the Indians in the 2016 draft out of UC Santa Barbara. He now owns a 12-5 career record in 40 games with a 2.32 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP with 206 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 217 1/3 innings.
Nineteen-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto’s Double-A affiliate) was named the Eastern League’s Player of the Week for the same stretch of games. In nine games, he hit .361 with a .639 slugging percentage, hitting four doubles and two homers while driving in 12 runs and scoring seven times.
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