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Shane Bieber‘s final start last season was rough. His first one in 2021 wasn’t too much better.
But while he wasn’t thrilled with his outing, Bieber wasn’t disappointed either. He committed to throwing certain pitches and working on areas he’d like to improve.
“There’s some positives to take away from today in learning how to shape the slider how I want to,” he said. “I started to figure it out in the second inning. I just got to look at the positives. It’s spring training. Go out there and get the next one.”
Bieber led the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts last year, completing a rare triple crown during the pandemic while becoming Cleveland’s fifth Cy Young winner since 2007.
The right-hander was dominant until the playoffs, when the New York Yankees tagged him for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the wild-card round. The Indians were swept out of the wild-card round the next day.
Bieber’s arrival at camp was delayed after he tested positive for COVID-19. Last week, the 25-year-old said he was feeling fine and eager to build on his strong third season in the majors and erase the “sour taste” left by his postseason flop.
Bieber coasted through the first against Kansas City, retiring the Royals in order with former Indians first baseman Carlos Santana hitting a grounder for the final out with an uncharacteristic first-pitch swing.
“I looked at him and I said, `What’s wrong with you? You never do that,”‘ Bieber said. “He looked back and said, `spring training, bro.’ He was trying to punk me, that’s for sure.”
In the second, Jorge Soler and Michael Taylor singled before Emmanuel Rivera delivered a two-run double to center. Bieber bounced back with a pair of strikeouts, but Nick Heath hit a single to put the Royals up 3-0.
Bieber has prided himself on pitching deep into games, but he got away from that some last season while trying to be too perfect.
“That’s really my identity,” he said. “At the end of the day that’s something I’ve really relied on and held close to my center for me for a long time as a pitcher is just being able to go deep into ballgames and eat up innings.
“With the shortened season, every run, every pitch seemed so elevated. I found myself, (catcher) Roberto (Perez) and I kind of found ourselves going for more swing-and-miss and missed bats and found ourselves in more crucial situations than we would have liked,” he said. “Going into this year, that’s something I’d like to continue to improve on and get back to my old ways.”
Ryan McBroom homered, doubled and drove in three runs for Kansas City.
FROM AROUND THE GRAPEFRUIT AND CACTUS LEAGUES:
ASTROS 7, NATIONALS 6
Ryan Zimmerman appeared in a game for the first time in almost exactly a year — he sat out the pandemic-shortened 2020 regular season because of concerns about his family’s health — and hit one of Washington’s three consecutive homers off Houston righty Steve Cishek in the third inning.
“I’ll be sore, like I always am,” said the 36-year-old Zimmerman, who walked in his first plate appearance and played three innings at first base.
“You can’t mimic a sprint to first base. Or there’s a couple foul balls near our dugout that I had to run full-speed over there for,” he said. “So that’s the good thing about this first week to 10 days: You get that sort of soreness out. … Mentally getting back into that rhythm, that’s the most important part for me.”
The two-time NL All-Star, expected to back up Josh Bell this season, hadn’t played since an exhibition on March 10, 2020.
“The biggest thing for him is to keep him healthy and keep him going,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Just seeing him on the field again, we were all excited to have him back.”
Josh Harrison and Yadiel Hernandez also went deep off Cishek as the Nationals built a 6-2 lead in their Grapefruit League home opener. The Astros, who are managed by ex-Nationals skipper Dusty Baker, came back to win by scoring five runs in the ninth.
Former Washington outfielder Steven Souza Jr. hit a two-run homer for Houston.
DODGERS 10, ROCKIES 0 (6 INNINGS)
Trevor Bauer, pitching for the first time since signing a $102 million, three-year contract, debuted in Dodger blue with two scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, struck out two, walked none and threw a wild pitch.
Bauer won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati last year. The right-hander threw sharp curveballs for his pair of strikeouts.
“All my pitches are pretty much where I want them to be,” Bauer said.
Los Angeles reliever Kenley Jansen struck out two in an inning.
Colorado starter Dereck Rodriguez allowed two runs in two innings.
ANGELS 4, WHITE SOX 4 (5)
Adam Eaton had a double and sacrifice fly for Chicago.
BRAVES 5, RED SOX 3 (7 INNINGS)
Boston newcomer Garrett Richards allowed two runs on three hits and two walks in two innings. He was pulled with one out in the first after loading the bases and walking in a run and throwing 23 pitches — this spring, teams can end an inning after a pitcher has thrown 20 pitches. Richards came back for the second inning.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has a sore right shoulder and hasn’t played yet. Manager Alex Cora said Bogaerts pushed himself during his offseason program and should resume throwing in the next couple of days.
ORIOLES 4, PHILLIES 4 (7)
Well-traveled Matt Joyce homered in his first spring game for the Phillies.
YANKEES 5, TIGERS 4 (7)
New York catcher Gary Sanchez, a two-time All-Star who batted just .147 last year, hit a long home run over the batter’s eye screen in center field.
Detroit newcomer Wilson Ramos homered and singled. New York minor leaguer Chris Gittens hit a grand slam.
TWINS 6, RAYS 5 (6)
Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow gave up two runs on two hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings.
Brent Rooker homered and drove in two runs for Minnesota.
MARLINS 2, METS 0 (7)
PIRATES 2, BLUE JAYS 2 (7)
Rowdy Tellez doubled for the second straight day for the Blue Jays.
ATHLETICS 13, REDS 5 (7)
GIANTS 1, RANGERS 1 (6)
CUBS 1, PADRES 0 (7)
San Diego starter Chris Paddack fanned three in two hitless innings.
BREWERS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 1 (8)
Arizona starter Merrill Kelly struck out five in two innings.