CLEVELAND -- Bryan Shaw was on the verge of signing with another team when he got a call from Indians manager Terry Francona.
Francona asked Shaw if Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff had contacted him. Shaw said that they did early in the offseason but not recently. Francona told him to wait just a few more days before signing with someone else, allowing the reunion to come to fruition.
“That was right when the [Francisco] Lindor trade, all that stuff was happening, so obviously they were a little more preoccupied than trying to get me over here,” Shaw said. “So, we waited a second, talked to them to see what their offer was, what their thoughts were on coming back and basically got a deal done within a day.”
Shaw played for the Tribe for five years from 2013-17 and posted a 3.11 ERA with 333 strikeouts, 119 walks and nine saves in 358 2/3 innings. So, what has the righty been up to since he left Cleveland?
“I played baseball. Sucked. Learned how to pitch again. Had a baby. Came here,” Shaw said. “And now we’re here.”
The Rockies signed Shaw as a free agent after the ’17 season, but in two years in Colorado, he pitched to a 5.61 ERA with a 1.547 WHIP in 131 games.
“For me, it was the slider when I went there,” Shaw said. “It just fell off the table for whatever reason, whether it was the altitude or mechanics. I don’t know what it was, exactly, that caused it. But it happened. It is what it is.”
Shaw was released by the Rockies last July and was picked up by the Mariners but spent the majority of the 2020 season at Seattle’s alternate training site, making just six appearances.
“Complete game-changer for me going forward,” Shaw said of his time at the alternate training site. “Because as a guy or anybody that's in the big leagues, you kind of work in the offseason to get ready for Spring Training, to get ready for the season, and then you go pitch in the season. You don't necessarily have time to tinker or develop new pitches and do all this kind of stuff. ... So, I think me being there has completely changed where I'm going to be at now and going forward for the next couple years.”
Francona noted on Friday that Shaw’s velocity seemed to be a tick higher than it had been over the last few years, and the 33-year-old reliever is ready to prove there’s much more left in the tank.
“Yeah, we got some new toys to play with as we get going,” Shaw said. “I'm not going to spoil the surprises for everybody, but we got some new weapons, some new ways to attack some guys. So, we're excited about it.”
Shaw knows that he’s not known for having the best showcases during Spring Training. He said that he told every team that tried to sign him this offseason that he doesn’t usually pitch well in the spring. But if there’s any team that would be able to see through that, it’s a team that he played with for five years.
“I mean, this is home for him, I feel like,” Francona said. “And I think if any organization can see the best of him, I think it's us.”
Bieber back in camp
Indians starter Shane Bieber was back in camp on Saturday afternoon and took part in workouts.
On Thursday, Antonetti said that Bieber had tested positive for COVID-19 at some point before the beginning of camp. He had been working out at the club’s Spring Training facility in the weeks leading up to Spring Training and was only expected to miss the first few days of camp.
Antonetti said that James Karinchak and Kyle Nelson were two others who were waiting to get through intake testing before joining the rest of the squad. Karinchak was approved to partake in workouts on Saturday.
To Francona, no one will ever be able to replace his former bench coach, Brad Mills. Mills was away from the team last year after his young grandson passed away during Spring Training. At the end of the season, Mills decided it was best to leave his role as bench coach to be able to spend more time with his family.
When Mills left his position as Francona’s bench coach in Boston to manage the Astros in 2010, DeMarlo Hale went from third-base coach to bench coach. Now, he’ll be replacing Mills once again, and Francona is excited to see him interact with his new team.
“One of DeMarlo’s strengths, and he’s got a lot of them, is his ability to talk to players,” Francona said. “And I mean be honest and almost hit them right in the face, but also have the ability to put his arm around them and they know he cares. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen at that. ... I wish we had him and Millsy, that would be perfect.”
The Indians had previously said that they hoped to find a new role for Mills to fill within the organization. Although that hasn’t happened yet, the offer is still on the table.
“Depending on what [Mills] wants to do,” Francona said. “Chris had made it very clear to him that he’s kind of got an open invitation, which makes me feel good. It’s not as easy right now as it maybe sounds with the COVID protocols in place; you just can’t pick up and go visit a Minor League place for three days. Millsy would be such an asset to an organization, and I think we all hope that at some point that it works like that.”