How Terry Francona helped bring Bryan Shaw back to the Indians

Bryan Shaw Indians
Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-20 18:29:49-05

CLEVELAND — Earlier this month, the Cleveland Indians announced they were bringing back Bryan Shaw, signing the 33-year-old right-handed relief pitcher to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to training camp in Goodyear, Arizona.

But how did the stars align and find Shaw -- a key setup man for the team from 2013-17 -- back with the Tribe four years after being traded to the Colorado Rockies?

“It’s funny, actually,” Shaw said while recalling the chain of events. “I was getting ready to sign, honestly, with a different team.”

Shaw said he has stayed in contact with Indians manager Terry Francona and the two talk all the time, never short of friendly banter and jabs.

Francona asked Shaw if Indians President Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff had reached out to him lately.

“I said they had earlier in the offseason but nothing recent, and it was right when all of the [Francisco] Lindor trades and all that stuff was happening, so, obviously, they were a little more preoccupied than trying to get me over here,” Shaw said. “We were actually getting ready to sign with another team, and Tito told me to hold off, they’re going to be calling in a couple days.”

Shaw listened to his former skipper and held off on signing that deal, and after talking with the Indians organization, they had reached a deal within a day—bringing Shaw back to the Tribe.

The decision to sign with Cleveland was made even easier for Shaw given his familiarity with the club’s staff, which has remained mostly intact from when he was last on the team in 2017, and of course the area itself.

“Coming into a place where you know the trainers, you know the strength staff, you know pretty much all the coaching kind of have that familiarity with everybody within the organization from that standpoint,” Shaw said. “My wife and I had a baby this offseason, so we know where to live out there, we know where to go, we know where she can take him for walks and not take him for walks. Just everything about coming here made the most sense to us going forward.”

While Shaw has life in Cleveland planned out on the home front, he’s also ready to show Tribe fans what he’s got on the mound.

After he was released by the Rockies last year, he signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners. With the Mariners, Shaw spent most of the season in the minors, optioned to the team’s alternate site. Although that could have been disheartening for the veteran reliever, he said it was a game-changer for his career because it was the first time he really had time to “tinker and develop new pitches.”

“We’ve got some new toys to play with as we get going,” Shaw said when asked about his reported increase in velocity. “I’m not going to spoil the surprises for everybody, but we’ve got some new weapons, some new ways to attack some guys, so we’re excited about it. I’m excited about it. Worked on it all offseason this year and worked on it when I was at the alternate site with the Mariners.”

Shaw said he worked with the Mariners’ pitching coordinator Max Weiner, who was formerly with the Indians as a minor league pitching coach, and the two created a new program to adjust and perfect his pitches.

“I’m really excited about where it’s at right now, so I’m just excited to get into games and go do it,” Shaw said.

It’s been a few years since Shaw has been in Cleveland, but he was able to summarize what his journey over the past four years has been like in just a few simple words:

“Played baseball, sucked, learned how to pitch again, had a baby, came here, now we’re here,” Shaw said.

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