Shane Bieber is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and a key reason why the Cleveland Indians can still compete in 2021.
He is, simply put, a true ace.
An absence of any amount of time would be notable and that is why fans may have been worried when some concerning news dropped Thursday afternoon.
The Indians are out in Goodyear for Spring Training and unfortunately, Bieber is dealing with COVID-19.
The good news is that the case is reportedly mild.
Chris Antonetti said that Shane Bieber tested positive for COVID-19. He's in the process of working through the return protocols. He had "very, very mild symptoms." The Indians expect him back within the next few days.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) February 18, 2021
COVID-19 Still Playing a Factor
The 2021 MLB season is set for 162 games and Spring Training is getting underway as usual.
It is almost easy to forget that routine COVID-19 testing is still taking place and results could keep players and even entire teams out of action like we saw in 2020.
The Indians were lucky last season to avoid any serious disruptions.
The biggest problem came when both Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger went out during a road trip, and the latter even lied about his involvement.
Hopefully, everyone has learned from the experience and this positive test for Bieber can be something that has zero effect on the actual season.
The most important part of any positive test remains the health of that player.
MLB fans saw Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman deal with a potentially life-threatening case of the virus last season and it was scary enough to cause some teammates to opt out.
Having protocols in place once again this season should help things run more smoothly now that more is known about how to operate in a world with COVID-19.
Bieber Needed All Season
Bieber is the ace of the staff and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
A slight delay in reporting to camp because of these mild symptoms should not end up being a big deal, given they remain mild.
The 25-year-old is still only approaching his peak after winning the Cy Young Award in 2020.
That was his third MLB season and it is clear the Indians may have Corey Kluber 2.0 in Bieber.
The rest of the rotation behind him still presents major question marks.
Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie are all still very young and relatively unproven.
Can one of those three, or even more, step up in 2021?
Of course, that can happen.
But Bieber will be the main reason why the Indians are a difficult matchup for any lineup this season.
Chris Antonetti asked how can #Indians still compete within their current economic climate? "Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez"
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) February 18, 2021
This is a pitcher with a career 3.32 ERA who had a historic pace in 2020 by finishing with a 1.63 ERA in 12 starts.
The question for Bieber will be if he can end up getting it done in the postseason.
His start against the New York Yankees last October was a disaster, but it was still his first playoff outing.
He should only get better.
COVID-19 has not gone anywhere and it will be interesting to see how a 162-game season plays out with potential cancellations.
Hopefully, the Indians can be safe and keep things under control.
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