Bibee displays progression in scoreless gem vs. Cubs

July 2nd, 2023

CHICAGO -- The who made his debut on April 26 probably couldn’t have done what today’s Tanner Bibee pulled off in Saturday night’s 6-0 Guardians victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Bibee had been cruising through the first three innings, striking out five batters and giving up just two hits -- one of which was the result of a miscue by his outfielders. But when he started the fourth inning, he temporarily lost his command. He walked the first two batters he faced, putting himself in a tough situation. Instead of getting rattled, Bibee settled in and got the next three hitters to ground out, strike out and line out to end the frame.

“Earlier on when I got called up, I doubt I could do that,” Bibee said. “I think I would’ve gotten a little upset and kind of had a lapse in judgment and it would’ve spiraled. I think [from the] beginning to now, I think I’ve gotten better about being able to stay with it.”

It’s these types of developments that allow the 24-year-old to remain in the big leagues, despite how much the Guardians are concerned about the workload their young pitchers are taking on this season.

Bibee threw 96 pitches, adding to his large workload this year. His previous two outings got to 105 pitches each. The Guardians are trying to make sure that doesn’t become commonplace as the team gets later into the season. Bibee has never thrown more than 132 2/3 innings in a single season. Between Triple-A Columbus and his time in the Majors so far, he’s up to 80 1/3 at the halfway point in the season.

No matter how many pitches he’s thrown on any given night, the only goal in Bibee’s mind is to get through six innings. He preaches after each outing that it’s a starter’s job to get through at least six frames. So, when he looked up with one out remaining to complete his six frames and saw skipper Terry Francona walking out of the dugout, the internal competitor in him was frustrated.

“[I wanted it] so bad. So bad,” Bibee said with a big grin. “But it was a good reason. I threw well. I was happy.”

Francona knew Bibee would be less than pleased to have to come out of the game at that point. He had thrown 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with two walks and a career-high-tying nine strikeouts. So, Francona made sure to explain the decision before Bibee walked off the rubber.

“His last time out, he got pushed, but he had an extra day [of rest coming up],” Francona said. “This time, he’s going to come back on regular rest and I didn’t want him to reach back in his last hitter or two.

“I didn’t want him to think he couldn’t get out of it. I know he could. I just want to try to use good judgment.”

The Guardians want (and need) Bibee to stay sharp and continue to grow at this level throughout the season if they want to be contenders this year. The team is putting faith in him and Gavin Williams (and likely Logan Allen again at some point in the future) to help make this rotation an asset. And when Bibee pitches like he did on Saturday, inducing a whiff on a quarter of the heaters batters swung at and getting a strikeout on both his curveball and slider, it’s clear how effective he can be.

“That young man did really, really well,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I thought their starter was pretty dominant. If you're looking at it, that fastball was real. The way he was able to land the slider and the changeup to lefties. He was pretty darn good.”

Bibee has made strides already in his two months in the big leagues. He was proud of the fact that he didn’t crumble when he lost his command in the fourth. But if he has already learned how to stay composed in those situations after making just 12 starts, the Guardians are more than confident that he’ll be able to continue that growth in the second half of the season.

“He’s going to get deeper and deeper and deeper [into his outings] as he learns to command,” Francona said. “And he will.”