Anyone watching the Cleveland Indians minor league system over the last couple of seasons has heard about the work being done by one of the club’s top pitching prospects, Shane Bieber. His efforts have caught the attention of more than just the fans and employees of the Tribe organization.
The Columbus Clippers’ Bieber was named on Monday as the International League’s Pitcher of the Week for games played between May 14-20.
It marks the second time this season that Bieber has been named a Pitcher of the Week – he was similarly recognized by the Eastern League on April 16. It capped off another impressive week of baseball for the 22-year-old right-hander, who has quickly worked his way into position to be on the Indians’ radar in the near future as a valuable piece of starting rotation depth.
Bieber started his second full year and third season overall as a member of the Indians’ organization with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, marking a return to the club after spending nine strong games pitching in the Eastern League last season. After a 3-0 start with a 1.16 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP in five starts, he was quickly promoted to Triple-A Columbus.
He made a pair of starts last week and earned his first win in International League play in his latter outing.
Bieber took the mound on Tuesday, May 15, in a home start against the Gwinnett Stripers. He would not factor in the decision, but that was no fault of his own.
The Stripers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning from Huntington Park. After Bieber struck out Peter Bourjos swinging, a double by Danny Santana and a single by Austin Riley drove home a run. A second strikeout and a groundout got him out of the early jam.
His offense got on the board and gave him a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the frame as a two-run double by Melky Cabrera plated Yu Chang and Yandy Diaz. After a 1-2-3 second, Columbus extended the lead to 3-1 on a solo homer with one out by Mike Papi, his third of the year.
Bieber allowed a two-out single in the third to Santana, but picked him off of first to end the inning. He allowed another two-out hit to Rio Ruiz on a bunt in the fourth, but struck out his third batter of the game to silence the Stripers. He set down the side in order in the fifth, striking out former Clipper and Indians outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to end the frame, then retired all three outs in the sixth on strikes, around a two-out single by Riley. His day ended in the seventh after retiring the first two hitters, handing the game over to Jeff Beliveau and the Clippers bullpen, looking to protect a 3-1 lead.
Columbus added a run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI-single from Brandon Barnes, but Beliveau got into trouble in the eighth, leaving with two on and two out. Cam Hill walked Riley to load the bases and Carlos Franco cleared the bags with a double to left, tying the game at 4-4. The Clippers would win the game in ten innings on a throwing error off of a sacrifice bunt by Chang.
Bieber worked six and two-thirds, allowing just the first inning run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in the tough no-decision. A total of 76 of his 103 pitches on the day were strikes.
He returned to the mound on Sunday, May 20, making his third home start with the Clippers and fourth appearance for the club overall since his promotion while taking on the Charlotte Knights for the second time this month. He would turn in his best start of the season, with plenty of other quality efforts worth consideration. He worked eight scoreless innings, giving up three hits while striking out eight. As is often the case, he did not walk a batter.
Bieber allowed his base runners in the first half of his afternoon outing. A two-out double by Matt Skole was wasted by Charlotte and another two-out hit, a single by Juan Perez, was also squandered on a groundout. He struck out a pair in the third in his first hitless inning, but gave up another two-out single after striking out the first two batters of the inning. That runner, like the previous two two-out base occupants, remained grounded at first on a fly out to end the inning.
He was given all of the runs of support that he would need for the game in the third. Todd Hankins started the inning against Tyler Danish with a double to left. One out later, Chang hit his third homer of the season to give the Clippers a 2-0 lead.
With the lead, Bieber was locked in the rest of the way. He retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth on balls in play. He cleared the seventh on a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts. Three groundouts in the eighth would be the final outs that he would record, leaving after eight shutout innings of three-hit baseball.
Bieber retired the final 13 batters that he faced in order before handing the ball to Ben Taylor for the save in the 2-0 game. He allowed a two-out RBI-single, but shut the door after that to earn his fifth save of the year.
For the week, Bieber went 1-0 with a 0.61 ERA and a 0.55 WHIP, giving up one run on eight hits in 14 2/3 innings while striking out 15. It improved his season marks with the Clippers to 1-1 with a 1.32 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP with 24 strikeouts and just two walks in 27 1/3 innings of work. On the year, he is now 4-1 in nine starts with a 1.23 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP with an absurd 54 strikeouts to just three walks in his 58 1/3 innings of work.
Bieber was the Indians’ fourth round pick in the 2016 draft out of UC Santa Barbara. The Orange, California, native debuted that season with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers before spending 2017 between Class-A Lake County, High-A Lynchburg, and Akron. He is currently ranked the number eight prospect in the Indians organization by MLB Pipeline and is the number two pitcher behind Lynchburg right-hander Triston McKenzie.
Lehigh Valley’s Joey Meneses, the International League’s top hitter this season, was named the Batter of the Week.
Photo: Cathryn Wood/Columbus Clippers