Shane Bieber eager to talk new contract with Indians

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND — Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber hopes to be talking about a new contract with the Cleveland Indians as soon as possible – maybe even this spring.

They don’t seem to be in quite the same rush.

Earlier this week, Bieber – who at just 25 led the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts during the shortened 2020 season – didn’t hold back his excitement when asked about potentially meeting with the team about a long-term deal.

“It’s absolutely something I’d be open to,” Bieber said on a video call from camp in Goodyear, Arizona. “In terms of conversations, it really hasn’t happened yet, so that’s something I’d love to dive into and hopefully that will be reciprocated as well.”

On Wednesday, Chris Antonetti, the team’s president of baseball operations, wouldn’t comment specifically on any planned talks with Bieber while hinting that Cleveland might be able to do something with him in the not-too-distant future.

“We’ve found it most constructive not to talk about individual circumstances with particular players,” he said. “Setting that aside, obviously, Shane represents all the things we would want our players to be, both on the field, the teammate he is, the way he prepares, the way he competes.

“We are hopeful that Shane will be here for a really long time to come.”

Bieber is likely to earn about $575,000 this season – meager for one of baseball’s best pitchers – and he’ll be eligible for salary arbitration after each of the next three seasons. This might be the ideal time for the Indians to extend him, and the club does have a history of doing that in the past with players like Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young winner in Cleveland.

But money is always an issue for the mid-market Indians, who couldn’t get All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor to bite on a long-term deal and wound up trading him to the New York Mets this winter before he walked as a free agent.

There’s plenty of time to get something done with Bieber, and with numerous guaranteed contracts expiring after this season, the Indians, who have slashed their payroll to $38 million, will be better positioned to lock up the right-hander to a long-term deal.

Antonetti said that future financial flexibility will allow the Indians to bend.

“It gives us a variety of options,” he said. “Part of the reason, if you look at the composition of our roster, it’s a lot younger and at different points in the service spectrum than maybe we’ve been at different points over the last few seasons. I would expect over the next six to 12 months, the guarantees that we will have moving forward will increase and you’ll start to see some of those commitments moving forward.”

Bieber was delayed in arriving at camp after recently testing positive for COVID-19.

He threw to batters for the first time on Wednesday, and manager Terry Francona wasn’t at all surprised by how he looked.

“Like Bieber,” Francona said. “Which is probably what another 30 guys would like to be. He’s such a perfectionist.”

In Bieber, the Indians have a foundational player to build around. He sets the example – on and off the field – for the club, and barring injury, there’s no reason to think he won’t get better.

If he performs the way he did last season, Bieber won’t get any cheaper, which is why it would make sense for the Indians to sign him to a long-term deal sooner than later.

Cleveland knows it has a special player.

“Leadership is something that’s earned by the way you go about your business, and Shane has earned that opportunity to lead because of the way he carries himself, because of the way he works, because of the way he prepares, because of the way he treats people and how much he cares about winning,” Antonetti said.

“And it’s really easy for Tito (Francona) or (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) or for me when young pitchers are coming up and they say, `Well, I want to be great. I want to be the best I what I do. How do I do that?’ And we could say, `Hey, look at Shane Bieber. Do what he does.’ It’s a pretty good example to have in the clubhouse.”

NOTES: The Indians added another outfield candidate, claiming Harold Ramirez off waivers from the Marlins. the 26-year-old has hit .274 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 431 at-bats. Antonetti said Ramirez is currently in Colombia and the team is working to get him to camp.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.