CLEVELAND -- Before Shane Bieber even arrived to the Major Leagues this season, Indians manager Terry Francona said the feedback from the player development staff was that the pitcher had the kind of poise along the lines of ace Corey Kluber. Francona's faith in Bieber only grew as the summer
CLEVELAND -- Before Shane Bieber even arrived to the Major Leagues this season, Indians manager Terry Francona said the feedback from the player development staff was that the pitcher had the kind of poise along the lines of ace Corey Kluber. Francona's faith in Bieber only grew as the summer wore on.
Now, Bieber is potentially in line to start a must-win Game 4 on Tuesday against the Astros in the American League Division Series at Progressive Field. Prior to Game 3 on Monday, Francona's message to the rookie was to prepare as though he was going to start against the Astros.
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
"His maturity level is beyond his three months in the Major Leagues," Francona said prior to Game 3. "That's exciting for us, because we view this kid as being here for a long time, and he's going to get better, too. And it's exciting. If we are able to give him the ball [for Game 4], there will be no hesitancy from anybody. That's a big compliment to that kid."
Bieber starting a potential Game 4 is not set in stone. First, the Indians need to see how they navigate through Game 3. If right-hander Trevor Bauer sees action in a Cleveland victory in Game 3, then Bieber would get the nod on Tuesday. If the Indians win, but Bauer's services are not required, then he could be the one to start Game 4, with Bieber in the bullpen.
In 20 appearances this season, the 23-year-old Bieber went 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA, posting 118 strikeouts against 23 walks in 114 2/3 innings.
Francona said his message to Bieber prior to Game 3 was a simple one.
"He's the starter for [Tuesday]," Francona said. "Obviously we've got to win, but the object is to win three. So, you've got to kind of keep some things in order or you don't really give yourself a chance."
Martin on the mend
Outfielder Leonys Martin, who is home in Florida still recovering from the serious bacterial infection that ended his season in August, posted a message for his Indians teammates prior to Game 3 of the ALDS.
"Let's do this today guys, one at the time," Martin wrote.
Francona said Martin is "healing so fast" that it has even surprised some of the doctors overseeing his recovery. Cleveland fully expect the center fielder (acquired from the Tigers prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline) to be healthy and ready by the time Spring Training arrives next year.
"He's been in communication with everybody," Francona said. "He just needs to have a little distance, I think, for his sake. He's doing OK."
• With Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel on the mound for Game 3, Francona went with Brandon Guyer in right field and Yandy Diaz at designated hitter. The manager was asked if he also considered sitting center fielder Jason Kipnis. Francona cited Greg Allen's season OPS against lefties (.484) and Rajai Davis' career showing against Keuchel (0-for-20) as reasons for keeping the lefty-swinging Kipnis in the ninth spot.
• Francona said he was impressed with the energy level from his players during Sunday's optional workout at Progressive Field. Said the manager: "When I left here [Sunday], I felt better than when I came in. Well, that's good. I mean, there's some sense of, you're like, '[Come on], we can do this.'"
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.