Cleveland Indians 2016 fourth round draft pick Shane Bieber hates giving up free passes. Since beginning his professional career last July, the 21-year old has tossed 53.0 total innings.
He’s walked just three batters thus far.
Meanwhile, the former UC Santa Barbara standout has struck out 52, good for an insane 17.3 K/BB ratio for his young career.
Bieber began his 2017 campaign with the Single-A Lake County Captains and the early reviews have been glowing. The Tribe brass was impressed enough to promote him to High-A Lynchburg yesterday after just five starts.
The talented right-handed starter spoke with Let’s Go Tribe about his famous last name, progressing from college walk-on to high draft pick and the secret behind his great command in this exclusive interview.
Brian Hemminger (Let’s Go Tribe): I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but it seems you take it in stride really well the fact that you have the same last name as an infamous pop star.
Shane Bieber: I’m used to it by now. It’s happened ever since [Justin] started becoming famous when I was in seventh or eighth grade. It’s been a while. Everyone when they first find out my last name’s Bieber they like to give their best shot at a joke that I’ve never heard before but I’ve pretty much heard them all by now (laughs).
You know, it’s my name. It’s something I’m proud of and it’s nothing I can change or would want to change. I just take it lightly and roll with it. The Lake County Twitter said it was time for “Bieber Fever” before one of my starts so It could turn into something cool. I love it.
Brian Hemminger: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not pitching, when you need to just take your mind off of baseball?
Shane Bieber: I like to go golfing. Right now I’m living with Brady Aiken and Justin Garza and we haven’t been golfing too much at all since we’ve been out here because of the weather and still settling into our routines.
We’re at the field most of the day so there isn’t too much downtime but it’s good to give your body some time to relax so when you are at home away from the field, we try to rest up, hang out together. When we’re not at the field, we’re usually at the apartment either watching TV, playing video games, listening to music, stuff like that. We’re all from pretty much the same area and we’re pretty similar with our personalities and we get along pretty well.
Brian Hemminger: Any video game in particular that you enjoy the most?
Shane Bieber: I really like FIFA 17 the soccer video game. I feel like it’s one of the best sports video games out there. A lot of the guys play it. It’s fun to get together with your buddies and get competitive with something other than baseball.
Back in Spring Training, I loved playing against Argenis Angulo. He’s one of my good buddies and we were always talking smack back and forth about it. I think I might be up on the series against him.
Brian Hemminger: What’s your cure for boredom during those really long bus trips?
Shane Bieber: Yeah, everyone’s got their thing whether it’s iPhone, iPads, watching movies, listening to music or trying to get some sleep. I’m fortunate that I’m not a super picky sleeper. I can usually knock out for a couple hours on the bus. We just had a 10 hour bus ride to Iowa and I was able to sleep for a couple hours which wasn’t too bad. I don’t mind it at all.
Brian Hemminger: We’re you really a walk-on for UC Santa-Barbara?
Shane Bieber: Yeah, I was a preferred walk-on so that means they’d get me into school but there were no promises I’d make the team and that was really my best option out of high school. I weighed the positives and negatives and decided to give it my best shot.
A big factor into the decision was my family. My parents Chris and Kristine and brother Travis, they’re my rock and support system. They gave me the confidence to take that leap of faith and go to Santa Barbara without having that security of being on scholarship. I love them for that.
I was gonna go out there and try out for the team and they’d give me the whole fall to prove my case. It’s an awesome school regardless of athletics just looking at academics, location, lifestyle so it was already one of my top schools and being able to further my baseball career was something I really looked forward to and it ended up working out.
Brian Hemminger: It’s amazing not even getting a guaranteed scholarship to a major school to becoming the Friday night starter and then becoming a fourth round draft pick for the Major Leagues just a couple years later. What do you credit for that?
Shane Bieber: I was always a late bloomer. I think I just really needed time to grow both physically and mentally. Coach Checketts at UC Santa Barbara, he saw in me and he believed that the physicality and the mentality would come with age and I was fortunate that it did. Just little things here and there learning from him, learning from other players on the team about how to compete the right way and learning to put on weight and muscle and things started to fall in place for me.
Brian Hemminger: Can you put into words the wild ride you were on last season, going to the College World Series as a smaller school?
Shane Bieber: The buzz was amazing. It was crazy how we made it to Omaha for the College World Series and no one thought we were gonna make it there. It was an unbelievable ride. I don’t know if you know the story, but in the second game against Louisville, we had a walk-off grand slam to send us there and that was pretty wild.
It was definitely high intensity, something I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for. That group of guys I was able to share those memories with was unbelievable and we’ll have it forever and those are lifelong friendships. It’s still surreal to me going from where I came out of high school not being highly touted to making it to the College World Series.
Brian Hemminger: How does it feel this season being able to stretch back out considering the Indians were super cautious after drafting you last year, never letting you throw more than three innings due to your college workload?
Shane Bieber: It’s fun. I hadn’t been able to do it because of the innings and pitch restrictions I was on. It’s different but I did such a good job of building my arm up in the offseason with the coordinators and the pitching coaches. They keep you on a pretty tight restriction in regards to building up, three innings, four innings, five innings, all the way up and then once you get past five innings, they start expanding pitches instead of innings. My arm feels good, my body feels really good and I’m just trying to go out there and compete. That’s where I feel comfortable, stretching the game out and trying to eat up innings for my team. I think that’s one of my strengths and I’m really excited to go out there and do that.
Brian Hemminger: What goes into having amazing command? There are so many players that have filthy stuff but would kill to be able to hit spots like you do.
Shane Bieber: To each their own. Those guys with filthy stuff don’t always need to hit their spots to get guys out so they didn’t have to learn it like I did or maybe they’re having to learn it now.
I learned to pitch to my strengths early on in high school because I didn’t have that velocity or that overwhelming stuff. I just learned how to throw strikes and challenge guys and have myself not be the reason I get beat. If I’m gonna get beat, they’re gonna beat me if that makes sense. I learned that from an early age.
I think it’s just repetition. I didn’t have a choice. I was super competitive as a kid and still am to this day and I had to work on something else because I couldn’t beat guys growing up with my stuff. Also, it’s having a feel for where your arm’s at and where your whole body’s at. I have a very good feel for my own body and I can feel things throughout my delivery and mid-delivery and can assess that with video. I feel good with my body and my mind and I think all that plays a big part in being able to repeat my delivery properly and hit spots.
Brian Hemminger: There’s a fine line between being able to throw strikes consistently and still being able to force weak contact or get those swings and misses. How do you walk that line?
Shane Bieber: There’s gonna be a time where I’m gonna need to throw more balls on purpose because as you move up, hitters are gonna get better and better and they’re gonna know that you hit the strike zone consistently. That allows them to get a lot more aggressive.
You’ve just got to change speeds and keep the ball low. I think that’s one of my biggest strengths, keeping the ball low and changing eye levels late in counts and going up when I need to, and changing speeds, just trying to disrupt the hitter’s timing.
As I keep developing and moving up and guys see you more and more times throughout the season, you’ve just got to keep evolving your gameplan to keep guys on their toes.
Brian Hemminger: What do you think about the modern Moneyball statcast era? Do you obsess about any of that stuff to look for the latest edge, or do you just let the higher ups worry about it and let the coaches work with you on things they think you need?
Shane Bieber: I don’t like to get too involved with it. I think it’s all super important and there are things that are definitely beneficial to look at in terms of scouting reports and all that, whether guys are super aggressive early, their spray charts whether they pull or see the ball deeper in the zone and all that. I try to get as much information as I can without getting overwhelmed by it and then I just try to go out there and trust my stuff and trust my catcher, trust my defense and coaching staff and offense. Once you step on the mound, you’ve just got to give your team the best chance to win and that’s what I’m trying to do.
Brian Hemminger: Last question, was there anything specific you focused on in the offseason that you feel is playing up this season?
Shane Bieber: I always want to build strength and continue to build up my body and increase velo, which in turn will get my stuff a little better. I can feel the ball coming out of my hand well right now, but the main thing from talking to people, guys who have been there and done that, is just being able to stay healthy.
I just got my body and my mind right. I ate the right stuff, got on a nice training and diet regimen and that’s the biggest focus for me right now, just staying healthy and giving myself the best chance to go the full season and do well. I’m only five starts in but I feel good.
You can follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneBieber19