Sept. 24: Bieber has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list, the Indians announced Friday. Righty Nick Sandlin is being transferred from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL to create a 40-man roster spot. Cleveland also reinstated Amed Rosario from the bereavement list and optioned infielder Ernie Clement and lefty Francisco Perez to Triple-A Columbus.
Sept. 22: Shane Bieber will return to the Indians to start Friday night’s game against the White Sox, interim manager DeMarlo Hale told reporters (including Mandy Bell of MLB.com). It’ll be his first appearance since June 13. He’s on the 60-day injured list, so a corresponding 40-man move will need to be made, although that can be accomplished by simply transferring Wilson Ramos from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL in the wake of his season-ending knee injury.
The 26-year-old Bieber was placed on the 10-day injured list back on June 14 due to a right shoulder subscapularis muscle strain. The reigning American League Cy Young winner hadn’t been quite as dominant as he was during 2020’s 60-game sprint, but he’d still impressed with 90 2/3 frames of 3.28 ERA ball prior to landing on the injured list. Bieber’s 33.9 percent strikeout rate, while still among the best in the league, was down from last year’s remarkable 41.1 percent showing. His 8.6 percent walk rate marked a slight increase over last year’s 7.1 percent clip.
Bieber’s injury was a major factor in Cleveland’s downfall in the American League Central standings this season, although had he been the lone member of the rotation to fall to an injury, perhaps the club could’ve withstood the loss. Instead, he was joined by both Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac for lengthy stays on the injured list, forcing the Indians to lean heavily on a group of rookie starters who spent much of the season looking overmatched.
At this point, any postseason hopes for Cleveland have been dashed, but there’s still some value in getting Bieber a few innings to close out the year on a high note. Pitching in a game setting without experiencing any lingering or recurring symptoms will allow both Bieber and the team to head into the offseason with greater confidence that the right-hander’s injury won’t carry over into the 2022 season. As a first-time arbitration-eligible player, Bieber surely appreciates the opportunity to pick up a few more innings to help offset the missed time.
Looking to 2022, Bieber will return to front a rotation that again looks to be stocked with quality young arms. The aforementioned Civale gives the club a strong No. 2 option behind Bieber, and while young Triston McKenzie was clobbered for seven runs in his most recent appearance, he’s shown some extended flashes of brilliance this year and looks well on his way to settling into the rotation as well. Plesac’s 2020 numbers look increasingly like an outlier, but even if that’s the case, he presents a solid fourth option. Cal Quantrill, meanwhile, has a 3.05 ERA (albeit with a 4.18 FIP) in 115 innings out of the rotation. Right-hander Eli Morgan hasn’t fared particularly well in his debut campaign but does have sound numbers in Triple-A. He’ll be a fine depth option moving forward, and the Indians have also at least gotten some big league exposure for depth options like Sam Hentges, J.C. Mejia and Logan Allen this year as well.