It’s something worth watching when a promising young player is on the verge of making his debut.
Shane Bieber will make his first major league start for the Cleveland Indians tonight against the Minnesota Twins, joining a red hot team that’s won five in a row as they seek to tighten their hold over the AL Central.
“It seems like the right time,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It’ll be good for him. I think it’ll be good for us. We’ll kind of just get a chance to watch him pitch a Major League game. Hopefully, he helps us win, but it’ll be just great experience for him.”
Bieber’s first start comes with some weight to it. Only just recently have the Indians found the correct formula to play winning baseball; they stand as the only team in the AL Central with a record over .500 at 29-25. Before their five-game winning streak, they were the only team in baseball to lead a division with a losing record.
Bieber will also face off against a division opponent in the Twins, who have wallowed in inconsistency at the beginning of the season. This was a team that made it to the AL Wild Card game and once led 3-0 over the Yankees. But at 22-29, they’re 5.5 games out of first place and trail the second Wild Card spot by nine.
But Bieber’s debut will hold special meaning to him, even if it’s only a spot start that will see him return to Triple-A when it’s done. He takes the mound on his 23rd birthday, and it could be a moment for him to shed the cloak of obscurity and show the baseball world just how good he could be.
And according to his scouting report, he might become a solidly good pitcher.
Shane Bieber is a control-oriented pitcher.
In 65 1/3 innings combined between Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron, Bieber has accumulated 61 strikeouts and only three walks while going 5-1 with a 1.10 ERA. In 262 2/3 career professional innings, he’s walked only 15 batters.
What’s impressive of his ability to stay within the strike zone is his ability to avoid the opponent’s bats. He has an average fastball that tops out at 94 miles per hour, but his ability to locate the pitch wherever he chooses, coupled with an above-average curveball, helps him in keeping hitters off-balanced. A developing changeup and slider, both rated as average pitches with the ability to improve, gives Bieber the potential to have four quality pitches in his arsenal.
But of all things graded in his scouting report, his control is rated the highest. At 70 out of 80, Bieber boasted a walks-per-nine-innings of 0.52 at Columbus this year. This was the best ratio in the entire Minor Leagues, and his ability to attack hitters is a major reason his career ERA to date sits at a sparkling 2.19.
Oh, and let’s not forget that in his last start for Columbus, he threw a seven-inning no-hitter in a rain-shortened game!
Bieber won't light up the radar gun, and he won't have to. The Indians already have power right-handed pitchers in Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. There's also Carlos Carrasco. It's unfortunate for Bieber because it seems as if this will be his only start in the majors as Terry Francona insisted that after the start he will be sent back down to Columbus regardless of the outcome.
Bieber has got his first shot in the big leagues. It's a special moment, and it's his first opportunity to show that he belongs here. It'll be interesting to see how his control translates at the major league level against the most superior hitters he'll have ever faced.
But, as long as Bieber doesn't deviate from the gameplan that got him here in the first place, he should be just fine. Expect him to attack while mixing all four pitches that could land him as a future number three or four starter at this level.
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