Guardians prospect Bibee makes historic debut

Righty becomes first Cleveland pitcher in live-ball era to notch 5-plus straight K's

April 26th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- walked down the steps, leaving the Guardians’ bullpen alongside his catcher, Cam Gallagher. The right-hander had just finished his pregame warmup routine and was heading in toward the dugout, ready to make his Major League debut.

Bibee stepped out onto the warning track, turned to Gallagher and asked, “Does this ever get old?” Gallagher responded, “Absolutely not. Don’t take these days for granted.”

As he made his way across the field, Cleveland’s No. 5 prospect and No. 59 overall per MLB Pipeline said he felt every emotion, but mostly happiness. After making just 28 Minor League starts, Bibee helped lift the Guardians to a 4-1 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field.

“I thought he was tremendous,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “To see him show the poise and the competitiveness, and three pitches, four pitches, it does get exciting. I don’t think there’s any reason to hide it.”

Bibee was electric in his first opportunity to showcase his arsenal on the biggest stage. He walked off the field after 5 2/3 innings to a standing ovation -- yielding just one run on six hits with no walks, one hit batter and eight strikeouts.

He got to the ballpark and quickly tried to get familiar with the pitching team, but veteran pitching coach Carl Willis had to be taken to the hospital to undergo precautionary testing after experiencing dizziness on the field. But that didn’t prevent Willis from following the success Bibee had on the field from his phone.

Adrenaline pulsated through Bibee's veins in the first inning, which resulted in hitting the first batter he faced, Charlie Blackmon, with a 98.5 mph heater. But after making it through the first unscathed, he locked in.

In the second, Bibee struck out all three batters he faced. He fanned Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon on an 84.8 mph changeup. Alan Trejo went down swinging on an 83.3 mph slider. Brenton Doyle fell victim to the slider, too. And Bibee was only getting started.

"He really mixed it up -- really good change of speeds,” McMahon said. “The slider and curveball were pretty similar out of the hand. And the changeup, as you saw, was a big speed difference. And he throws a 97 mph fastball, so you'd better be ready.

“He had pretty impressive stuff."

Bibee came back out for the third inning and struck out the first two batters he faced. According to’s Sarah Langs and the Elias Sports Bureau, Bibee is the first Cleveland pitcher in at least the live-ball era (since 1920) to record at least five consecutive strikeouts in a Major League debut.

“His curveball was really sharp -- a lot sharper than I anticipated,” Gallagher said. “There were some of them that I was catching that looked like I was trying to catch them twice because it was just a big curveball. But his slider was really sharp, too, and being able to use all four and locate them, it’s tough to hit anybody that can do that.”

Just 16 hours before Bibee threw his first pitch, the 24-year-old didn’t know if he’d make the start. The Guardians sifted through multiple blueprints to determine the best way to get through the series finale against the Rockies. But once Konnor Pilkington was used in relief on Tuesday night, Bibee was the clear option.

Around 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, he got the call informing him he’d make his debut in Wednesday’s matinee.

“It was just an unbelievable feeling,” Bibee said. “I worked my entire life to get here and that call was the bridge to get here.”

Bibee’s family, who were all still in his hometown in California, somehow scrambled to make it to Cleveland in time to watch him. Some of his friends and former coaches made the journey, too.

Bibee had as solid of a Major League debut as a hurler could wish for, forcing the Guardians to have to think deeply about what they’ll do with the six starters they have on their roster in the coming days.

“My guess is he’ll stay with us and we’ll figure out what to do as we move forward,” Francona said.

Maybe Bibee gets another turn in the rotation. Maybe he heads back to Triple-A. But he certainly took his catcher’s advice: He did not take this opportunity for granted.

“He did a heck of a job,” Gallagher said. “He’s going to be here hopefully for a little bit.”