The talented right-hander, who is the reigning 2020 AL Cy Young award winner, will return to a major league mound on Friday, when the Indians face the Chicago White Sox.
Shane Bieber will start on Friday against the White Sox.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) September 22, 2021
What does that mean?
First, and the most obvious, is there will be enough time for him to make two starts before the regular season ends.
That is useful on one hand, because it will provide Cleveland an opportunity to see where Bieber is at following a long layoff, on a crucial body part for pitchers.
Shoulder injuries are very delicate, and if Bieber can ace both tests that lie ahead for him, the organization will feel much safer going forward.
Cleveland Wants To See Where He Is At Health-Wise
On the other hand, outside of that “health validation” the organization is planning for Bieber, there really isn’t much upside in the idea of him returning.
Cleveland is obviously not playing for anything in the following three series, which is what is left of regular season.
They are 74-76, 10 games behind the AL Central leaders, the Chicago White Sox.
Cleveland is even further off in the Wild Card race, so they have no chance of making it into October.
One has to wonder if bringing him back to make two starts is worth the risk.
There is a risk of aggravating the injury: it’s minimal, but it’s a risk nonetheless.
Maybe this is unpopular, but I really think it’s a horrible idea to let Shane Bieber come back and pitch this season.
It’s like skydiving: the best case scenario is that nothing horrible happens and he comes out of these starts without injury.
— La Mole (@FranmilsEyebrow) September 23, 2021
Again, the shoulder for a pitcher is like the knee for a basketball player, or the wrist for a tennis player.
It’s obvious that Cleveland feels confident enough to send their star hurler to the mound after the long time off.
However, they also need to think about his long-term health.
Bieber, who is 26 years old, is under team control for several more seasons in Cleveland.
In fact, 2021 was his last year making near the league minimum.
A Valuable Long-Term Piece
His arbitration years will run in 2022, 2023, and 2024.
He is set to enter free agency after the 2024 season, unless the Indians (Guardians starting next year) are able to hammer out a contract extension that will keep him in Cleveland for more than that.
It seems a bit odd to see him return for two meaningless starts at the end of the 2021 campaign with the team well out of the race.
He will get the chance of ending his season on a high note after weeks of rehab and waiting around.
When he was healthy, in the first three months of the season, Bieber was a star, although not quite at his 2020 level.
Last year, he has a 1.63 ERA in 77.1 frames.
In 2021, he was closer to his 2019 version: a dominant starter, but not quite the best pitcher in MLB.
This season, the right-hander has a 3.28 ERA and 130/33 K/BB ratio through 90 2/3 innings (14 starts) for Cleveland.
He will have an opportunity to add to those numbers over the weekend and then next week for one last time.