Mike Clevinger says he “felt like a caged animal” waiting to pitch for the first time since 2020.
After being acquired by the San Diego Padres from Cleveland at the 2020 trade deadline, the righty made four starts for his new team.
But in November of that year, on the same day the Padres announced that they were signing him to a two-year extension, they also announced that the hurler needed Tommy John surgery. The invasive procedure has a lengthy recovery and rehab timetable of 12-18 months, meaning Clevinger would miss the entire 2021 season.
The return has been a long time coming back for Clevinger, or in his own words to MLB Network at Spring Training, “long-awaited.”
Clevinger describes himself as “aggressive” on the mound, and his blazing fastball, which touches high 90s. To paraphrase him, an aggressive animal is exactly what the Padres need if they want to compete with the rest of the NL West, especially since they will be without slugger Fernando Tatis Jr. for a few months.
In 2021, the Padres’ pitching staff had a combined 4.10 ERA, ranked eighth in the National League, and just below the 4.20 league average. Their division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers (3.01) and San Francisco Giants (3.24) stood firmly atop the league standings. The only pitcher in the SDP rotation with an ERA under 4 was Joe Musgrove, who pitched to a 3.18 ERA over 32 games (31 starts).
Over his three full seasons in the Cleveland rotations from 2017-19, Clevinger posted a 2.96 ERA over 80 games (74 starts) and struck out 513 batters over 447 2/3 innings. The Padres are counting on Clevinger to come back and be that pitcher again.