Shane Bieber will try to bounce back from his worst performance of the season when he takes the mound for the Cleveland Guardians against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday evening in Minneapolis.
Bieber, a two-time All-Star selection and the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings during his most recent outing on May 7 against the Toronto Blue Jays. He walked three and did not record a strikeout, and he threw only 38 of 71 pitches for strikes.
It was an uncharacteristic performance for Bieber (1-2, 4.13 ERA), who had not allowed more than three runs in any of his first five starts of the season. His ERA ballooned from 2.45 after the start against the Blue Jays.
"It was just lack of command, lack of getting ahead, which led to lack of conviction," Bieber said. "Overall, just pretty frustrating. Didn't give the team a great chance to win. So (I've) just got to be better."
He will try to do so against a Twins club that is coming off its best offensive output of the season. Minnesota held on for a 12-8 win over the Guardians on Friday in the opener of the three-game series thanks to four home runs, including a grand slam by rookie shortstop Royce Lewis.
It was the first career home run for Lewis, a highly touted prospect who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
The Twins retrieved Lewis' home run ball from the fan who caught it in exchange for signed memorabilia.
Lewis said he knew exactly what to do with the ball.
"I'm going to give it to my mom and dad," he said. "They'll appreciate it so much."
It would have been Chris Paddack's turn to take the ball in the Minnesota rotation, but he is sidelined because of an elbow injury that could derail his season. To take Paddack's place, the Twins expect to promote left-hander Devin Smeltzer (0-0, 0.00) to make his season debut.
Smeltzer, 26, is 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 career games (seven starts) with the Twins over parts of the previous three seasons. He has walked 18 and struck out 56 in 69 2/3 innings.
He has yet to pitch in the majors this season.
In five career games (three starts) against Cleveland, Smeltzer is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA.
Bieber has fared much better against the Twins in his career. He is 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). The only teams he has more victories against are two other AL Central opponents, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, with six apiece.
Bieber's velocity is down this season. He said he was not overly concerned by the decrease.
"I think (I feel) pretty good," Bieber said. "It's tough to try and think about how I've felt in years past, at this point. But one or another downside of not going deep into the game is I wasn't able to stretch it out in terms of pitch count. ... All in all, body feels good. Just a tough one (last time)."
--Field Level Media