CLEVELAND (AP) — Shane Bieber held it together Monday for as long as he could.

The Cleveland Guardians ace has spent the past few days trying to process his new reality — Tommy John surgery and not pitching again this season.

It’s been harder than he imagined.

His voice choked with emotion, Bieber paused while speaking to reporters for the first time since deciding to have the surgery, a procedure that will end his 2024 season.

Bieber, who missed more than two months last season with elbow issues, somehow gutted out two starts — 12 scoreless innings and 20 strikeouts against Oakland and Seattle — before succumbing to pain.

He’s now suffering in a different way, and Bieber is still struggling to accept that he has to move forward.

“Baseball will be there,” the 2020 Cy Young winner said, speaking softly. “I will be here. It’s easy to keep things in perspective. It’s just an injury that I’ll get past. I’m not the first person, won’t be the last. One of the things that is a bit more difficult for me is that throughout the offseason and in spring training, I did figure some things out and my performance was getting back to the place that I knew I was capable of.

“I was falling back in love with pitching, and I was having a lot of fun.”

Bieber hasn’t yet scheduled the surgery, but he intends to have it done as soon as possible so he can begin a lengthy rehab and recovery.

The 28-year-old, who is in his final year under contract, said he initially felt soreness in his opening-day start against the Athletics. He chalked it up to being his first outing but sensed it was something more.

He took the mound against the Mariners last week knowing he would have to push his elbow to the limit.

“It was either it goes away or it’s surgery,” he said.

In that start, Bieber said the elbow bothered him from “warmup one to pitch 83, so it was an emotional time.”

In the days after, he consulted with team doctors, received outside opinions from renowned orthopedists Dr. Keith Meister and Dr. Neal ElAttrache and decided to have the surgery. At this point, he has no other choice.

Bieber is just one of several big-name pitchers who have been diagnosed with elbow injuries. Atlanta’s Spencer Strider, the New York Yankees’ Jonathan Loáisiga, Miami’s Eury Pérez and Oakland’s Trevor Gott are others.

Over the weekend, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark blamed the spike in elbow injuries on the pitch clock, which was introduced last season to mixed reviews. While it speeds up games, it’s also possible it has contributed to pitchers working too fast and potentially risking injury.

“I’m not ready to say that that’s the reason that it happened,” Bieber said. “From a conditioning and cardiovascular standpoint, that hasn’t affected pictures, I don’t think. So it’s hard to say what’s going on in the inner workings of the elbow and the arm. We’ll see what’s to come of it.”

Bieber’s future in Cleveland is cloudier than ever.

The Guardians previously offered him a long-term contract, but Bieber had been reluctant to sign, in hopes of cashing in as a free agent. The team considered trading him before his elbow flared up last season, and that seemed to be a possible scenario this year.

Now, nothing is certain.

“It’s a very real elephant in the room, so to speak,” Bieber said of his contract situation. “It’s unfortunate the timing of everything, but as athletes, you can’t control some of these things. So we do what we can. We stay positive.

“I’ve got an amazing support system with my family, with my teammates, with everybody around here, and I’m excited to keep my head down, move forward, and it’s easy to keep things in perspective. Things could be a lot worse, I’ll put it that way.”

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