The Cleveland Indians offense went quiet during a 1-0 loss to the AL Central champion Chicago White Sox at Progressive Friday night.
But with the Tribe’s postseason hopes long extinguished, there were more pressing issues affecting the soon-to-be Guardians.
Shane Bieber made his first start since June 13 and tossed 34 pitches over three scoreless inning, in which he faced nine batters and struck out nine.
Bieber went on the Injured List with a shoulder strain–a move that crippled the top of the rotation. Bieber thought he would make 10 more starts this season, according to MLB.com. It was expected he would miss some time, but nobody though that it would take until game No. 153 to get him back.
For Bieber to get back and make a start, well, it’s huge for his offseason. Instead of working toward making his return, Bieber can go into the offseason knowing he made it back and was effective.
You can throw all he simulated games in the world, but nothing replicates going out against another team in a Major League Baseball game, trying to get other professionals out.
Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto recently talked about how Charles Nagy was in a similar position back in 1993. Nagy had landed on the disabled list but made it back to make a late-season start. According to Pluto, the three-time All-Star credited the appearance with changing the way he approached his offseason.
Cleveland Indians future looks blazing bright
Bieber’s return comes shortly after Aaron Civale made his return to the bump earlier this month. That the team’s Nos. 1 and 2 pitchers are back playing, certainly gives the organization confidence heading into 2022.
It’s too early to say the Guardians can be as good as the Indians were when they were fronted by Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, but the 2022 rotation has great potential.
We know what Bieber and Civale can do. While they recovered, Cal Quantrill, who started the season in the bullpen, became one of the game’s top breakout starting pitchers. Triston McKenzie, a player who had flashed greatness during his rookie campaign, also took major steps forward after getting knocked around earlier in the season.
Pitching always comes at a premium. It’s the most expensive commodity to acquire and develop. Without it, the best in baseball go home every October–ask Mike Trout.
With it, and you’ve got a chance. The Guardians are going to have to upgrade some spots elsewhere not he field, but something special could be taking shape for April.