Captains' Bieber strikes out career-high 11

No. 16 Indians prospect pitches six innings for first pro win

Shane Bieber leads the Midwest League with 18 strikeouts, one more than Fort Wayne's Jesse Scholtens. (Tim Phillis/TCP Photography)

By Andrew Battifarano / MiLB.com | April 15, 2017 12:53 AM ET

Stepping off the mound after the second inning, Shane Bieber didn't feel comfortable and needed to talk to his catcher, Logan Ice, about making adjustments.

The ensuing dugout conversation paid off, to say the least.

The Indians' No. 16 prospect recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts while allowing one run on four hits over six innings Friday as Class A Lake County posted a 5-2 win over Lansing at Cooley Law School Stadium.

"I'm excited. Obviously, I got a loss in the last one and didn't give the team a good chance to win," Bieber said. "That's really what I was trying to do tonight. It was about going out there, going as deep as I can with a good pitch count and give our team a chance to win.

"We went up 3-1, then 5-1 a few innings later. It allowed me to go out there and throw all three of my pitches for strikes. Obviously, a lot more comfortable with a lead and just trying to fill up the zone."


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Bieber (1-1) worked around a leadoff single by J.B. Woodman to pitch a scoreless first but could not dance out of danger in the second.

Bradley Jones started the inning with a one-out single and Ryan Hissey followed with a double to center. Jake Thomas brought in Jones with a sacrifice fly to give Lansing a 1-0 lead and the 21-year-old right-hander worked out of further trouble before the discussion with Ice, Cleveland's 22nd-ranked prospect.

"It's funny, not a lot [was working] early," Bieber said. "I was struggling the first couple of innings, was kind of getting hit around and couldn't throw my slider or changeup for strikes or just throw a good one in general. I had a conversation with my batterymate, Logan Ice, in between innings. He asked me why I wasn't throwing as many sliders or changeups. I said, 'I'm going to be honest, I can't really feel it right now.' He said we needed to figure it out and I said, 'Yeah, we'll figure it out when we get out there.'

"I just kind of kept throwing it in between innings and making little tweaks and adjustments and it ended up paying off after the third inning. That's when I think it really started to click."

The California native worked his off-speed pitches back into the mix and gave up just one hit the rest of the way. He found a rhythm at the end of the third when he fanned Edward Olivares and Blue Jays top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 

Bieber started the fourth by striking out Christian Williams, but after the ball bounced in the dirt, Ice threw it away, allowing Williams to reach base. Undeterred, the 2016 fourth-round pick punched out Jones, Hissey and Thomas on 14 pitches. The four-strikeout inning matched his high from last summer with Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley.

"That's never happened to me, I feel like I'd remember that," Bieber said with a laugh. "That's probably the inning where all three of my pitches started working cohesively and playing off of each other a little better. I got into a groove with Logan, he's a phenomenal catcher behind the dish, receives really well and get a lot of those borderline calls. We set up a game plan on how to attack it in between innings and made minor adjustments here and there with cues I know in my delivery and just throwing it more. Repetition is the key, and it worked out." 

The UC Santa Barbara product struck out four of his final six hitters, three of them swinging. He ended the outing by fanning Williams again as he threw 61 of a career-high 89 pitches for strikes en route to his first professional win. 

After not lasting more than three frames in any of his appearances last season, Bieber has pitched 10 2/3 innings through two starts with Lake County. It's territory he hasn't reached in since his final collegiate start.

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"I take pride in trying to be as strong late in the game as I am early in the game," he said. "I did that a lot in college, I went deep into a lot of games and preserved pitch counts. It's something I've learned over the years and I'm comfortable deep in the games. I just want to go far into the game to give my team a chance to win each start."

Offensively, Li-Jen Chu smacked at two-run homer in the seventh and No. 30 prospect Conner Capel drove in a run with a double. Emmanuel Tapia contributed two hits and scored a run for the Captains.

Lugnuts starter Mike Ellenbest (0-1) took the loss after giving up five runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in five innings.

Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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