TODAY: Bieber is tentatively slated to throw a bullpen session tomorrow or Saturday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told MLB.com’s Mandy Bell and other reporters.
AUGUST 8: Indians ace Shane Bieber was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a shoulder strain back on June 14, then moved to the 60-day IL two weeks ago. That sets August 15 as the earliest Bieber can make his return to Cleveland’s rotation, yet it doesn’t look at the moment like the right-hander will be ready until well beyond that date.
Bieber was recently shut down from throwing altogether, though that shutdown only lasted a few days, as the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner was making tosses from 90 feet on Friday.
“I’m not super enthused about the fact that it’s taken a little bit longer than expected, but it is what it is and we gotta think safety and long-term,” Bieber told The Akron Beacon Journal’s Ryan Lewis and other reporters. “So it came down to getting a little bit of rest and I’m sure you can tell that I’m excited and want to come back as soon as possible….I don’t know too much on a timeline or whatever, but I’m just trying to progress as smoothly and quickly as possible and get back as soon as possible. Whether it’s a couple innings this season, who knows?”
Given that we’re now into the second week of August, Lewis notes that it might not be either possible or feasible for Bieber to pitch again this season. Between pitching off a mound, bullpen sessions, and rehab outings, Bieber isn’t likely to be ready until the start of September at the earliest.
Cleveland currently has a 53-55 record and is well behind in both the AL Central and wild card races, so unless the Tribe considerably closes either gap in the near future, the Indians could opt to shut Bieber down and look ahead to the 2022 season. On the other hand, if Bieber is indeed healthy and ready to pitch by (for instance) mid-September, there also might not be any harm in him getting “a couple innings” under his belt just so he can fully put his shoulder injury behind him, rather than wait until Spring Training in February.
The Tribe were racked by pitching injuries this season, with Bieber’s shoulder issue robbing him of a chance to fully follow up on his outstanding 2020 campaign. The right-hander wasn’t quite at his all-world Cy Young form in 2021, but he still delivered a 3.28 ERA and a 33.9% strikeout rate that ranked among the league’s best. With Bieber only entering arbitration eligibility for the first time this winter, he is still a major building block for a Cleveland team that will look to return to contention as they begin the Guardians era next year.