CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians‘ pitchers reported to training camp without their ace.
Shane Bieber, who dominated hitters last season while winning the AL Cy Young Award, recently tested positive for COVID-19 and has not yet reported to the club’s facility in Goodyear, Arizona.
President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said Thursday that Bieber had contracted the virus and would be delayed in joining his teammates.
“He has very, very mild symptoms,” Antonetti said on a video call with reporters. “In fact, they were barely noticeable. He’s working through the protocols to return. We expect him to get back to the complex at some point within the next few days.”
Antonetti would not disclose when Bieber tested positive. Per Major League Baseball’s protocols, Bieber has to isolate for at least 10 days from the time he tested positive. He’s being monitored by the team’s training staff and then will have to be medically cleared before he’s allowed to rejoin the team.
Antonetti said Bieber had been working out at the team’s complex this winter.
While Bieber’s coronavirus case doesn’t appear to be serious, it’s yet another reminder to players of the importance of vigilance in following the protocols and safety measures they dealt with while completing a 60-game schedule and postseason last year.
“We all need to keep each other safe,” Indians pitcher Adam Plutko said. “We were wildly successful last year because we didn’t have any positives on our team. We didn’t have to deal with that. We didn’t have shutdowns. Because of that, we had success.
“So I hope everybody here in Goodyear is very conscious of what they’re doing on and off the field to protect each other as teammates.”
Bieber, 25, was dominant last season, leading the league in wins (8), ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122) — a Triple Crown for pitchers — in 12 starts.
Bieber, who came to the attention of many fans by winning the All-Star Game MVP in 2019 when the event was in Cleveland, has gone 34-14 over the past three seasons.
Even more so than last year, the Indians will count on Bieber to anchor their strong starting staff and keep the club competitive following the trade of All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Carlos Carrasco to the Mets.
Cleveland won a wild-card spot last season.
When asked why the Indians will stay competitive this season, Antonetti said: “Shane Bieber and [third baseman] Jose Ramirez.”
After Bieber’s stellar season, it’s hard to pick one area where he needed much improvement. But Antonetti said that didn’t dissuade the right-hander from putting in the needed work.
“With Shane, first and foremost is just setting that great foundation that he does every winter coming into spring training and be positioned to absorb a workload,” Antonetti said. “And hopefully this year that’s 200-plus innings of really high-quality performance. And Shane, to his credit, one of the things that continues to separate him out is the way in which he attacks his work and prepares for a season.”