Sometimes, the best decision isn’t always the most popular one.
Cleveland baseball fans may not want to hear or read this, and yes, it may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the Tribe coaching staff and the front office should seriously consider putting starting pitchers Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale on the shelf for what is left of the 2021 season.
A few days ago, I read one fan’s comment when hearing Civale had a good minor league outing during his rehab stint that such was good news and the Indians pitcher, before going on the disabled list with a league record 10 victories, should “hurry back because the team needs him.”
The truth is the Indians, or should I start getting used to saying the Guardians, do not need him-at least not now. They should not rush either Civale or Cy Young winner Bieber back to the pitcher’s mound because there really is no “need” with so few games left on the schedule and the team, realistically, out of any playoff race.
Additionally, how many starts will both get during the last month of September, starts that would make any difference? My answer is zero. Obviously, the American League Central is out of reach with the Chicago White Sox seemingly poised to win the division, and too many other teams eyeing a wild card birth with just not enough room for the Indians to be on the guest list for the postseason party.
Bieber, who originally went on the disabled list June 14 with a shoulder strain, was set to possibly return to the big league club on Aug. 15. He was tentatively slated to throw a bullpen session days later, according to Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations. Bieber, obviously didn’t make that return date of August 15, and it appears the AL All-Star Game MVP isn’t ready to return anytime soon.
Bieber, in an interview with The Akron Beacon Journal, seemed to have things in proper perspective saying he wasn’t enthusiastic about the length of time it’s taken for his return but what has to be thought about is safety and the long-term effect.
And that is exactly my point. In the big picture and thinking long-term, it is imperative the Tribe brass and medical staff take every precaution to keep the team’s top hurler and face of the franchise safe with a healthy return so as to get a full spring training under his belt to gear up for the 2022 opener.
Bieber is too valuable a commodity to have him rushed back into a situation that just doesn’t merit any appearances. If Cleveland was still “in the hunt” for a playoff spot, then I would say yes, he needs to be back in the rotation. But the numbers in the standings suggest cautionary actions are needed, and not hasty overreactions.
Civale joined Bieber on the 60-day injured list June 24 sustaining an injury to his middle finger on the pitching hand. He appears, though, to be further along regarding a comeback bid than Bieber is but while Civale has thrown some bullpen and minor league sessions well, he has experienced soreness and pain following those outings.
According to other sources,Civale could be coming off the injured list in another two weeks, or so, but I would question that for the same reasons outlined pertaining to Bieber.
Civale, who many argued should have been named to this year’s all-star team, is basically shaping up to be the Tribe’s “second ace,” so why complicate things with unnecessary risks?
We’ve seen a few line drives drilling a pitcher’s arm, elbow, or worse. Fatigue injuries are also common with muscle pulls, strains, and other ailments Cleveland doesn’t need to have Bieber or Civale endure beyond what they have had to go through so far.
Now is the time to give quality starts and innings pitched to Triston McKenzie, Eli Morgan, Cal Quantrill and Sam Hentges, Unfortunately, McKenzie, who flirted with a perfect game recently against Detroit and was dominant in his next start against the Los Angeles-Anaheim Angels, went on the disabled list with what was described as “shoulder fatigue.”
Zach Plesac is back from his injuries and appears to be doing well but has had some rough starts, as well. But he’s the Indians’ No. 3 man in the order behind Bieber and Civale. Cleveland needs to keep that “terrific trio” intact to begin the next season.
Currently, the Indians are ranked 10th, or tied for ninth (with the Angels at .496) in the overall American League standings. They are 10 games behind the White Sox in the division and with Oakland and Seattle 13 and 11 games over .500 with Toronto still making some noise, again, it is highly doubtful Cleveland will have enough time to catch anyone for a wild card entry.
Those are the numbers that matter, and not individual statistics Bieber or Civale can add to their resumes during the last month of the season that won’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.
And so, regarding “having enough time,” the Indians need to do just that with Bieber and Civale. Time to get well and perfectly healthy to begin the 2022 campaign. The waiting game can be both the hardest and frustrating contests to play. But it is realistically the only cards the Indians can play. The team has hung in there staying near the .500 mark all year, even without its top two hurlers.
One has to look at that reality, and focus on what will be something to look forward to in the days to come. With all the “stars” aligned, the sky can be the limit for this team. In the words of Tribe radio play-by-play man Tom Hamilton, it should be interesting to see what transpires next year at the ballpark located on the street corners of Ontario and Carnegie in downtown Cleveland.
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