Indians 'confident' in Civale, Bieber progress

July 21st, 2021

HOUSTON -- The Indians' rotation has certainly looked different than the team would’ve expected it to look halfway through the season, but a handful of inexperienced hurlers thrown into the spotlight have been able to keep the club afloat. But how much longer will they be required to do so?

The light is faint, but it’s starting to creep its way into sight at the end of the tunnel, at least for one of Cleveland’s injured hurlers. Aaron Civale (third finger sprain) has been limited to playing catch over the last week or two, but may be able to start throwing off of a mound, assuming everything continues to progress as expected.

“The hope is that maybe possibly here in the next week, he could get off the mound,” Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said. “He has had some tape wrapped around that digit of the finger, just for a little bit of added support, and we have started to eliminate the bulk of that tape -- not as many wraps and continuing to get away from that. I think Dr. [Thomas] Graham feels like we’ll get very close to the time that he can go without it, so then just getting a feeling of the baseball again.”

As for Shane Bieber (right shoulder strain), he finally was able to pick up a ball for the first time on Monday and play catch out to 60 feet. He started working with weighted balls to help prepare the muscles in his shoulder for the next step on July 9, but his timeline for actually throwing had been pushed back to assure he wasn’t rushing back too quickly. His next step will be to stretch out to 75 or 90 feet in the near future.

“In the grand scheme of things, it's not a huge step, just because of everything he's been doing every single day,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But it's nice to see him with a ball in his hand.”

When Civale was diagnosed with his middle finger sprain on June 23, the initial plan was to prevent him from throwing for one to two weeks and he’d miss four to five weeks of game activity. But this week already marks the four-week point, and he has yet to toe the rubber.

“I think with fingers, I think it’s difficult to put a timeline on it because you really don’t know how a guy is gonna respond, how it’s gonna affect his feel,” Willis said. “Now all of a sudden you got pressure, the pressure on the baseball and those things.”

Bieber ended up being even further behind schedule than Civale, as the reining AL Cy Young Award winner was projected to go one to two weeks without throwing a baseball after he was diagnosed with the strain on June 14. But it was exactly five weeks before he played his first round of catch. The team doesn’t have any firm timeline in mind, as the No. 1 goal remains to keep Bieber at a smart, healthy pace to make sure the injury doesn’t reoccur later in the season.

“Any time you talk about shoulder or elbow, and you’re talking about a guy of his ability and caliber, you want to be careful,” Willis said. “It’s a tough thing for the organization, it’s tough for the staff, it’s toughest for the pitcher himself, but we have to be patient. … We feel confident they’ll both be back, and we’ll be excited when that day comes.”

J-Ram to get a few more off-days

José Ramírez fights to be in the lineup every single day, never wanting to take a day off, but that will have to change over the next few weeks. The third baseman has been dealing with elbow discomfort since the start of July, and that pain has randomly started to flare up from time to time.

“The way he said it, if he takes a bad swing, I think it's more like when he gets fully extended, maybe when he swings through a changeup or gets fully extended on a fastball,” Francona said. “We obviously don't want to just put him on the IL and make him take 10 days off, so we might give him sporadic days in the next 10 days, two weeks, to see if we can help that along.”

Draftees in Goodyear

Twenty of the Indians’ 21 draftees from this year’s Draft class received a special call from Francona and general manager Mike Chernoff on Tuesday afternoon when they all arrived in Goodyear, Ariz.

“It was really fun,” Francona said, with a big grin. “Kind of forget, it's their first day in professional baseball. So we got a chance to visit with them. That was really enjoyable.”

Of those 21 draftees, 19 were pitchers and 18 were from the collegiate level.

“That's kind of a running joke because I always tell [those] guys, 'Hey man, college pitchers. College pitchers,'” Francona said. “And [shoot], they just kept throwing them out there. I was cracking up. [President of baseball operations] Chris [Antonetti] was texting me, and I thought he was pulling my leg. That was great. … I know you can't always do that, but I think that will pay dividends.”