Bibee’s right hip injury on Guards’ minds after comeback win

3:09 AM UTC

CLEVELAND — This was the one scenario the Guardians were hoping to avoid this year.

Cleveland knew that with a trio of rookie hurlers in its rotation, it would be difficult to have all three take on more innings than any of them had in the past without a single injury. Manager Terry Francona has been overly cautious with each of the three to avoid any hiccup along the way.

But on Saturday night, Tanner Bibee was removed from the Guardians’ 2-1 victory over the Rangers at Progressive Field due to right hip tightness when he limped away from the mound in the sixth inning after delivering a pitch to the Rangers’ Mitch Garver.

Bibee will undergo further testing with an MRI exam slated for Sunday.

“It’s all right,” Bibee said after the game. “I mean, I’m obviously not really moving around a ton, but we’ll see how it feels tomorrow. I think it’s more of a thing to kind of monitor how I feel tomorrow, how I wake up, how it feels.”

Bibee first winced in the fourth inning when he fielded a ground ball toward his glove side off the bat of Jonah Heim. Bibee took a few steps toward first baseman Josh Naylor, tossed him the ball and limped as he turned back toward his dugout.

When Bibee went back out to the mound for the fifth, he told the training staff he didn’t feel the pain when he was pitching, but it was present at other times. Then, he had another brief scare in the fifth, when he was hit on the left foot by a 90.7 mph ground ball back to the mound from Leody Taveras — a ball he fielded and flipped to first as he fell to the ground for the out.

As Bibee was getting back up, he felt his hip twinge again.

“It just kind of locked up and wouldn’t let go,” Bibee said.

When Bibee returned to the rubber in the sixth, Cleveland’s coaching staff was alerted that his hip was bothering him. Two or three pitches before Bibee stepped off the mound in pain, pitching coach Carl Willis approached Francona — saying he could see subtle differences in the righty’s delivery.

Then, on a 2-0 heater out of the zone to Garver, Bibee turned toward the first-base line and rounded around the pitcher’s mound with a limp, favoring his right side. He was immediately pulled from the game.

“It’s definitely really scary,” said Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan, who capped a two-out rally in the eighth inning with a go-ahead single after Tyler Freeman’s single tied the game at 1. “He’s obviously been our dog the whole time. I mean, seeing him deflecting comebackers, making those plays, it’s crazy. Just talking to him now, I think he seems optimistic about it, so that makes us feel really good.

“But hopefully tomorrow is a better day for him.”

Bibee was strong through his first 5 1/3 innings. He allowed just one run on five hits with no walks and four strikeouts, leaving with the Guardians trailing, 1-0. His velocity was down and he didn’t rack up a ton of whiffs, but Bibee was cruising the way his team has become accustomed to, as he ate up frames with minimal damage allowed.

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The 24-year-old is now one of just two pitchers in AL/NL history to begin a career with 23 or more games of at least five innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed within their first 25 career games — joining Aaron Sele.

And Bibee’s season ERA dropped to 2.98.

“He’s one of the guys who I feel could be one of the best pitchers of the season,” closer Emmanuel Clase said through interpreter Agustin Rivero, “and it’s kind of sad to see him go out like that, something with his body, because he was pitching really well.”

Bibee has worked incredibly hard to keep his body prepared to handle a heavier workload than he’s accustomed to. He was in the middle of creating a strong campaign for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Now, Bibee has to wait to see if an MRI exam reveals something that could keep him off the rubber for the rest of the season.

“Yeah, of course [it’s upsetting], especially when [the start is] going pretty good,” Bibee said. “It’s obviously the end of the year, so definitely pretty upsetting.”