CLEVELAND -- At this time last year, Shane Bieber was getting ready for Minor League Spring Training, before opening the season with the Akron RubberDucks. Fast forward to 2019, and the right-hander is preparing for his sophomore campaign in the Majors.The Indians, once again, are projected to have one of
CLEVELAND -- At this time last year, Shane Bieber was getting ready for Minor League Spring Training, before opening the season with the Akron RubberDucks. Fast forward to 2019, and the right-hander is preparing for his sophomore campaign in the Majors.
The Indians, once again, are projected to have one of the best rotations in baseball. With Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer still on Cleveland's roster, Carlos Carrasco signing an extension and Mike Clevinger coming off his best season on the mound, it's hard to imagine being able to make that rotation even stronger. However, after the Tribe got a taste of what Bieber could bring to the club last year, many are looking forward to just how dominant this rotation could end up being in 2019.
"I think this year's big just like every other year," Bieber, 23, said prior to Tribe Fest. "For me personally, just to build off of last year and Clev and Cookie and Trevor and Corey -- they're amazing and they all do so many different things well, and I'm just trying to fit in there and give the team the best chance of winning every fifth day is really my main mindset. Just going out there and competing and really keeping it simple."
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After jumping from Double-A to Triple-A to the Majors in a short span last season, Bieber logged a 4.55 ERA in 114 2/3 innings with the Indians, which was slightly higher than the American League average. But the righty showed much more potential beyond that one statistic. One thing that stood out during his rookie year was his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Bieber fanned 118 batters while walking only 23, giving him a ratio of 5.1. Of pitchers who threw at least 100 frames last year, Bieber's strikeout-to-walk ratio tied for 10th with Patrick Corbin, trailing Justin Verlander, Robbie Erlin, Chris Sale, Kluber, Ross Stripling, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Carrasco and Clayton Kershaw, the majority of whom are some of the most elite pitchers in the game.
"I learned really to try to be even-keeled," Bieber said of his 2018 season. "Not to let the highs get too high and the lows get too low because last year I bounced around a little bit. I had some good outings and bad outings and was up and down between Triple-A and the Majors a little bit, so really just trying to be even-keeled with my mindset and go out there and just try to perform every five days."
• Tribe still has eyes on the prize for 2019
Bieber permitted minimal walks, but gave up a high number of hits. In those 114 2/3 innings, he allowed 130 hits, which led to his 1.334 WHIP. He caused a lot of swings and misses with his slider, but a pitch that gave him a lot of trouble was his changeup, which has been a big focus of his offseason.
"The changeup's going to be big for me," Bieber said. "Either take some speed off or add some. Things are going pretty well with that, but I won't get ahead of myself because that's an important aspect, especially for a starting pitcher to be able to have that. That would be key, so that's something I'm definitely working on and focusing on."
Bieber is projected to go 9-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 24 starts (139 innings) this season, according to Steamer. After a few months of picking the brains of the rest of the starting staff and taking some time at the end of the year to reflect on what he had done well and not done well, Bieber has come up with his list of things he'd like to continue to improve throughout the year.
"For me it's just developing pitches and just getting better and more comfortable within the game and learning to attack hitters, especially through the second time through, third time through," Bieber said.
Although he's already made 19 big league starts, he had to make some adjustments to his offseason schedule to prepare for his first Major League Spring Training camp.
"You know, everybody's different," Bieber said. "So everybody says it takes a few years to really get dialed in to your routine and that takes some trial and error and what works best for you. I feel like I set up a pretty good routine the last few years and I was able to just kind of move it up a little bit a couple weeks and try to stick to that. That kind of kept it simple for me.
"We lost some key guys and some key pieces and some big leaders, but I think a lot of guys will step up this year, and I'm excited for where this team's gonna go, and I'm excited how things are going to shake out."
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.