How will Indians manage minus Bieber?

June 15th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- When you lead the Majors in innings pitched and average number of pitches thrown per start like , it’s difficult to avoid the question of whether that heavy workload caused him to land on the injured list with a right shoulder strain. But the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner halted any speculation.

“No. I’ve had this conversation,” Bieber said. "I wouldn’t change a thing the way things played out. I think from what I know about this strain, pitch count or repetitions didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s just one of those things that it’s not gonna get better unless you give it some time.”

After Bieber’s start on Sunday, he went to the Indians’ medical staff to try to get some clarity on the discomfort he’s felt in his shoulder for some time. The 26-year-old right-hander said up to that point it had been manageable, but it was Sunday when he noticed the pain started to move to different areas.

“What that means exactly, I'm not totally sure,” Bieber said, “but one can kind of assume it means that my body might have been unknowingly compensating for something and that's when things get a little bit dangerous, a little bit sketchy. Ended up having to make the decision to get it imaged, and I obviously got the results back that deemed that I needed to take some time and give this thing a rest and just try to get out in front of it.”

Bieber will go without throwing for two weeks before he’s re-evaluated to determine his next steps. His absence now leaves Aaron Civale as the only regular starter in the rotation who will continue to get the ball every fifth day. The team has J.C. Mejía and Cal Quantrill who can continue to make starts, and Eli Morgan was added to that mix prior to Tuesday’s matchup against the Orioles when the Indians recalled him from Triple-A Columbus and sent down infielder Owen Miller. But how exactly is the club planning to use Morgan?

“If I knew that, I would answer it,” manager Terry Francona said.

The next few weeks will need to be determined on a start-by-start basis for the Indians. Francona mentioned that he intentionally pulled Mejía on Monday after just 55 pitches so that he could be ready to go again on short rest on Friday. The team could continue to take that approach with both Mejía and Quantrill to keep filling in as many holes as possible, and Morgan will quickly find his role in this process. Thursday’s starter is still undetermined and it will likely be dependent on who the club uses on Tuesday following Quantrill.

After learning of Bieber’s injury on Monday, Francona took some time prior to its 4-3 win over the Orioles to talk with his team, specifically the pitching staff, to give a clear message that all hands will need to be on deck for the next few weeks.

“If we pull together, we have a chance to have some fun figuring out ways to win as opposed to 'woe is us,'” Francona said. "But we might have to get a little creative.”

“Last night was an awesome game to watch to know how I felt,” Bieber said. “A bunch of different emotions. And to watch guys step up like they did one after another was awesome and extremely encouraging. And I have no doubt we’ll make the most of this stretch.”