With playoff hopes diminishing, the Cleveland Indians should shutdown Shane Bieber for the rest of the 2021 season.
With the loss to the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night (Aug. 10) in extra innings, the Cleveland Indians fell to 55-56 on the season and are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. While Cleveland’s schedule is easier the rest of the season than it has been the last two months, the club is now 10.5 games back in the AL Central and eight back in the Wild Card. With postseason hopes flickering, it might be time to make some big decisions.
As it currently stands, the Tribe have five players on the injured list. Bobby Bradley was just recently added, joining Roberto Perez on the 10-day injured list. Aaron Civale is on the 60-day list and is working his way back, throwing a 30-pitch bullpen on Aug. 7. Josh Naylor is out for the year after his injury, leaving just Shane Bieber to talk about.
Bieber’s road back to the starting rotation hasn’t been the smoothest. He was initially placed on the 10-day list back on June 14 before being moved to the 60-day on July 25. The whole time, the team has kept his “expected return” date on the website as TBD, leaving the door open for really anything.
Well, he recently took another pause in his progress, being shutdown for a few days after playing catch. He’s sense returned and stretched out his throwing to 100 feet on Aug. 7 and the team is hoping to have him on a mound soon. However, we’re getting to a point in the season where we have to start asking if it’s worth it.
The Cleveland Indians have just 51 games left on the schedule for the 2021 regular season. While there are definitely some series that could be sweeps for the Tribe, the window to make a playoff push is closing. The window for Bieber to return in time to impact that is even more narrow.
At this point in his progression, Bieber still has a lot of steps to go. He hasn’t even thrown off a mound yet, so that’s step one. Then there’s throwing a few bullpen sessions to get his pitch count up followed by at least one simulated game. Figure that takes around two weeks, which puts us with just over a month left in the season and he still needs a couple rehab starts.
The good news is that the Triple-A regular season will end at the same time as the MLB schedule this year, on Oct. 3, so that could be on the table for a rehab assignment. However, is it really worth it to put Bieber on a rehab assignment to get only a few starts from him at the end of the season at best?
Bieber has had a tough road to this point as it is, so why would a team that really doesn’t have postseason hopes try and push the envelope? Now, it should be clarified by what I mean when I say shutdown. This wouldn’t have to be a full-on, not throwing shutdown. But keeping him on the injured list and just working on getting 100% healthy might be the better option.
With that being said, if between now and the time he could be ready for a rehab assignment the Cleveland Indians go on a run and are within striking distance, think five games back in the Wild Card, then the team can reconsider. What we’re saying is that right now the focus shouldn’t be on Bieber pitching this season, but making sure he is 100% his Cy Young form come Opening Day 2022.
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The club showed their cards at the trade deadline when they moved so many pieces that most likely weren’t going to return for 2022. This team is looking to the future right now. If there’s some success in the here and now, that’s really just a plus at this point in the season. Building for the future is the most important thing.
Using that mentality, keeping Bieber on the injured list for the rest of the season makes the most sense. It allows him to ensure he’s back next year at full capacity, but it also allows the team to continue to evaluate the other options. Civale is close enough to bring him back this year, meaning that three spots in the rotation will be occupied by prospects vying for the final two spots in the 2022 rotation.
We’ve talked about the potential of Cal Quantrill and he isn’t the only one showing flashes. Both Triston McKenzie and Eli Morgan have shown flashes that the team can continue to monitor through the rest of the season.
While it would be great to see Bieber back in action again this season, it just doesn’t make sense for what the club is trying to do. The focus is on 2022 and if the postseason is out of reach, which it already is close to being, then the best move with Bieber is to keep him on the injured list until Spring Training.