Cleveland Guardians ace Shane Bieber made his third straight Opening Day start on Thursday, but there was cause for concern.
The start of the Cleveland Guardians’ 2022 season wasn’t just about the return of baseball, though that was definitely a big part.
Ace pitcher Shane Bieber also got the chance to come back after missing significant time in 2021.
Bieber suffered a shoulder injury in the second half of last season, and made just two starts after the All-Star Game. Yet, after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, he was ready to go for Opening Day on a reserved pitch count.
Shane Bieber’s return to action for the Guardians may raise concern
The Guardians pulled the starter after 72 pitches against the Royals, which isn’t necessarily a cause for worry. He didn’t have a full spring training to get back to speed and the team plans not to rush him back.
However, Frank Stampfl pointed out one major concern about the outing: Bieber’s fastball averaged just 90.6 miles per hour, the lowest for him in any career start.
All told, Bieber’s 4.2 innings went alright. He struck out four batters, allowed three hits and gave up an earned run that could just as easily have gone as an error.
Still, concerns about velocity weren’t limited to Stampfl alone.
Bieber’s 4-seam fastball averaged 92.8 mph in 2021 and that was his lowest mark since his rookie season. He threw that pitch an average of 94.1 mph in 2020.
The Guardians, who lost 3-1, can hope the weather played at least some role in limiting Bieber’s velocity. It was cold and windy. Hardly ideal conditions for a pitcher.
Whatever the cause, he’ll need to improve on that front to be truly effective this season, even if it was a decent outing to open the season.