Guardians ace Shane Bieber joins Cleveland during West road trip for first time since surgery

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shane Bieber marked being six weeks removed from Tommy John surgery with a pair of milestones.

The Cleveland Guardians ace not only had the bulky brace from his right arm removed, he is back with his teammates for the first time since early April.

Bieber is on the Guardians' six-game road trip out West that began Friday with a weekend set against the Los Angeles Angels. Cleveland goes to Colorado for a three-game series Monday before Bieber heads back to the team's training facility in Goodyear, Arizona, to continue rehab.

Bieber has certainly rejoined his teammates at the right time. The AL Central-leading Guardians have won eight straight after Saturday night's 4-3 win over the Angels. It is Cleveland's longest winning streak since it ran off an AL-record 22 straight in 2017.

“It’s awesome to to be able to meet up with the guys, when they’re on such a heater. It's been fun to watch, both in person and from afar,” Bieber said before Saturday's game.

The 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner had reconstructive surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on April 12 in Texas. Besides having the brace removed, Bieber has been going through the early rehab process of building back range of motion.

“It's had its difficulties over the first six weeks, but hopefully the process continues to go smoothly,” he said. “I'm feeling good and staying positive.”

When Bieber took the mound in Seattle on April 2, he had a feeling during the first inning that it was going to be his last start for some time as the pain in his elbow became too overwhelming. Bieber was limited to 21 starts last season also due to elbow issues.

Despite that, Bieber threw 83 pitches (55 strikes) in six scoreless innings and struck out nine. That followed not allowing a run and striking out 11 in six innings in the March 28 opener at Oakland.

“I saw some people ask why I was going through that? That's a natural question to ask, but with the context of what I dealt with last year and rehabbing it,” Bieber said. “I needed more feedback on what I was dealing with. I have no regrets and I’m happy to be moving forward.

“I knew what was going on and inevitably going to happen, that I was going to have to get surgery. Looking back, I'm thankful to have had that outing. Those first two outings going so well made it a little more difficult in a sense. It was an interesting experience in Seattle pitching and competing knowing it was going to be awhile.”

Besides discussing the next steps in rehab, the bigger question hanging over Bieber is his future in Cleveland. He is slated to be a free agent in the offseason since this is his final year under club control.

Bieber is 62-32 with a 3.22 ERA in 134 starts over seven seasons with Cleveland. The 28-year old said he would consider a short-term deal if it made sense.

“Honestly it's too far down the road for me. It’s a little bit different than I expected, but my mindset is the same. I’m confident in myself and there’s always something to be done, but at the same time I think everybody’s kind of focused on what’s going on right now.”

Even with Bieber and Trevor Stephan out for the year due to Tommy John surgeries, the Guardians' pitching staff has the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors.

Manager Stephen Vogt said having Bieber and Stephan back this weekend has provided another jolt of energy for a ballclub that has won seven straight.

“It's a huge pick-me-up for them and us. Any time you have Shane Bieber sitting around talking baseball, everybody's going to get better,” Vogt said.

Tanner Bibee, who allowed three runs in six innings en route to his first win in over a month, said it was reassuring seeing Bieber in the dugout between innings.

"Other than Cookie (Carlos Carrasco), Shane is our vet," Bibee said. “He helped me out a lot last year during my rookie year so it's been great having him here these past two days.



Joe Reedy, The Associated Press