Clase in midseason form in spring debut

March 6th, 2023

TEMPE, Ariz. -- used the first of his nine scheduled Spring Training appearances to work on his 91 mph slider. Just say the most effective closer in the American League last season is still on his game.

Clase threw 12 pitches, eight sliders, and retired all three batters he faced in the third inning of Cleveland’s 6-0 loss to the Angels on Monday. He ended with a flourish, getting Livan Soto looking on a 2-2 slider to end the inning after a pair of groundouts.

“They were doing what I wanted them to do,” Clase said of his sliders. “The last pitch I used, just what I wanted.”

The Guardians felt no urgency to get Clase into games, in part because he reported in such good shape. He threw about 10 bullpen sessions before arriving in camp and threw three more, as well as several live batting practice sessions, after landing in Goodyear.

“It is a way to combine what we did last year but also to improve it and make it better,” Clase said of the spring plan.

Clase had so much success at the top of the strike zone last season that Cleveland is working to make that more a part of his repertoire.

“The one thing that showed itself last year was when he accidentally got to the top of the strike zone and above, hitters really couldn’t pull the trigger or got beat,” pitching coach Carl Willis said.

“We’re working on establishing the ability for him to do that when he wants to do it as opposed to just the occasional accident. I think that will help in terms of maybe changing some eye levels a little bit and give him another area of the strike zone to attack. With the action he gets on it, it’s a tough pitch to hit.”

Clase has occasionally elevated the ball in live batting practice and likes what he has seen.

“We’ll try to incorporate it this year,” Clase said. “I’ve been working on it in the bullpens and the live BP and we’re getting good results so far.”

Other camp notes

gave up a solo home run to Hunter Renfroe on a first-pitch fastball leading off the second inning but retired the other six batters he faced. He threw 27 pitches and struck out two, both on offspeed pitches, one swinging and one looking.

“It was good to get back on that five-day routine and face hitters again,” said Civale, who threw one inning in his first appearance. “Just getting used to the game of baseball again.”

is scheduled to make his next start in a “B” game on Thursday against the Padres at San Diego’s training facility, with catcher behind the plate.

“Bieber is mature enough that he will get what he needs to get out of it,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Then we can see the [younger] guys in a regular game, which helps also.”

Bieber, Cleveland's likely Opening Day starter, has given up one hit in five scoreless innings across two appearances this spring, with three strikeouts and a walk.