MINNEAPOLIS -- It’s the middle of August and Shane Bieber is in the early stages of getting himself back on the rubber. As the regular season continues to inch closer to its end, is there a point to get the Indians ace back into game action? If you ask Bieber, that answer is, “Yes.”
“There’s a lot of points to me, personally,” Bieber said. “Like I said, I miss it. I want to get back out there as soon as possible and I think stacking together a couple of good starts towards the month of September, the end of September, would add a lot of value for me, personally, selfishly, but hopefully also the team. I’ve been working quite a bit the last couple months. Finish strong.”
Bieber has been making huge strides toward that goal. On Tuesday, he threw his second bullpen since going on the injured list in June. He tossed 25 fastballs, building on the 20 heaters he threw on Saturday in Detroit. He worked in the rest of his arsenal on flat ground and is preparing for his next bullpen on Friday in Cleveland.
“Try not to get ahead of myself, obviously,” Bieber said. “But it’s nice. I miss the hell out of it. I know the wins aren’t stacking up like we want. Just as a ballclub right now, I feel like we’re just playing good baseball and we’re fighting, and we’re scrapping. I want to be out there with the guys. So, it’s another step in the right direction. Just trying to check boxes.”
Whether Bieber can come back in 2021 will depend on how many more boxes he needs to check off. After Tuesday’s matchup against the Twins, the Indians have just 44 games remaining over the next six and a half weeks. How many bullpens will Bieber need under his belt before he advances to a rehab assignment? How many rehab starts will he need to make in order to be ready for the big league roster? Will he need to be stretched out completely or can he pitch in a more limited role?
“That’s not a question for me,” Bieber said. “Whatever capacity I’m able to go out there and compete in, I want it.”
Worst case scenario, Bieber is setting himself up to have a normal offseason where he won’t have to worry about undergoing rehab, treatment or anything else with his right shoulder. However, that’s far from his goal.
“Fortunately, I live in Arizona anyway,” Bieber said. “Ultimately, for me, it’s about being back out there, competing and enjoying the game I’m fortunate enough to play.”
Entering play on Tuesday, the Indians sat 11 games behind the first-place White Sox in the American League Central and 10 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot. Although many fans may be ready to turn the page and look toward 2022, Bieber and the Indians are still set on making more of an impact this year.
“I think a lot of people are heading that way on Twitter and everything,” Bieber said, “but like I said, I still think our focus and my focus personally is on this season.”