CLEVELAND, Ohio – In an offseason when the Indians traded Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco and let Carlos Santana and Brad Hand walk out the door of free agency, Cy Young winner Shane Bieber says he’s interested in talking. with them on a contract extension.
Truth be told, he sounded downright excited at the prospect. That’s enough to melt the snow in the driveway, even if nothing comes out.
“It’s absolutely something I’d be open to,” Bieber said Monday during a Zoom call with reporters.
No one has called a press conference. Nothing has been leaked on Twitter, but it’s something to think about rather than fixate on the fact that the Indians will likely open the season with a $ 50 million payroll.
“In terms of conversations, nothing has really happened,” Bieber said. “Like I said, everyone is on the same page, you know step by step. We have a very new group this year, and there is a lot of rotation from last year, so it’s a different look and everyone wants to get the ball rolling, to be on the same page.
“In terms of conversations, it hasn’t really happened yet, so it’s something I’d love to dive into and hopefully that will be reciprocated as well.”
Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations, said the Indians don’t comment on such things. But do you mention a reason why they wouldn’t want to extend Bieber’s contract? Tired of watching your pitchers win Cy Young Awards? Suddenly not interested in a pitcher who led the majors in strikeouts?
As much pain as they may have had to trade Lindor, he was offered a multi-year deal for more than $ 200 million in spring training last year. It wasn’t enough for Lindor, but it’s not that they haven’t signed other players for extensions.
At the end of this season, Bieber will be eligible for arbitration with more than three years in the big leagues. Perhaps this is the time to discuss an equitable extension. The Indians have a history of seeking these kinds of deals in spring training.
Meanwhile, Bieber managed to enter the Indians bubble in Goodyear after testing positive for the coronavirus on February 8. He missed a day or two of workouts, but his symptoms were mild. He threw a bullpen session in the backyard of his home in Phoenix to get ready.
“I don’t know how I got it,” Bieber said. “Fortunately, I didn’t end up passing it on to anyone else.”
Bieber was asked if his life had changed since he won Cy Young last year by a unanimous vote from the BBWAA. He smiled and said, “I got my own headline when I tested positive for COVID, that was different.”
In the 60-game sprint, Bieber was as close to perfection as a pitcher can get. He went 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA. He struck out 122 batters in 74 1/3 innings. He won the pitcher’s Triple Crown, leading the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
So what is the motivation for 2021? Bieber has a lot.
He got off to a bad start last year. He came in Game 1 of the wild-card playoffs against the Yankees. He allowed seven earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. In a confrontation with Gerrit Cole, the Indians and Bieber lost 12-3. It’s a loss that is equal parts disappointment and motivation for Bieber.
“That was my driving force this offseason,” Bieber said.
That’s why he spent most of the offseason in Phoenix so he could train at the Indians complex. He has spent time studying what happened in that game.
“I feel like my slider could have popped up in a much bigger way because last year I was predominantly fastball, curveball,” Bieber said. “I think the (Yankees) lineup did a good job of looking for that turn, that north-south turn and they went swing, swing, swing and then they held off.
“They did a really good job staying out of the curves below the zone and I couldn’t really combat that with something that was a strike, which would be my slider or my cutter. So it was kind of a missed opportunity. … But a bitter taste in your mouth at the end of the year can fuel you for an entire offseason and that’s what it did. “
Bieber spent the offseason working on his slider and switch. That’s what he pitched when he made his major league debut in 2018. He called the slider his “bread and butter.”
“I love my curveball and I don’t want to get away from it, but to have another breakout pitch that is doing something else and that gives hitters a different look will be great for me,” Bieber said. “That, along with a couple of mechanics, doesn’t necessarily change, but just by cleaning things up, I feel like it’s pushing me in the right direction.”
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