Mike Clevinger’s road back to Padres included a near-death experience

Apr 22, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mike Clevinger (52) looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mike Clevinger (52) looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mike Clevinger will make his long-awaited return this week for the San Diego Padres and will do so against the team that traded him to them, the Cleveland Guardians.

Clevinger hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since the 2020 postseason, when an elbow impingement sidelined him and ultimately led to Tommy John surgery that November.

It’s never an easy road back from the invasive surgery, which has a recovery timeline of 12-18 months. But for Clevinger, getting healthy and back on the mound was only half the battle, as he ended up on an American Airlines flight that experienced serious mechanical issues before making an emergency landing.

Mike Clevinger details harrowing flight and emergency landing before Padres season debut

"“We were up at like 30,000 feet elevation, the light comes on to move about the cabin. And then next thing you know we’re nose diving hard and the air pressure drops in the cabin. The A/C turns off. The captain goes on yelling. The oxygen masks come down, (the captain yells), ‘Put your oxygen masks on! Put your oxygen masks on!’ We’re (stomachs) in our throat for 25, 30 seconds. I thought we were just going to the ground, dead. And then we get to like around 5,000-feet elevation. That’s when he starts doing swirls, and he comes back on and he’s like, ‘Folks, we’re gonna try to make an emergency landing in Tucson.’”Mike Clevinger"

Clevinger also said he was “freaking out” as “smoke filled the cabin” and that the flight had to be diverted to Tucson for an emergency landing.

After arriving and making his final rehab start, Clevinger got on another flight. This time, to join the Padres in Pittsburgh, where they were in the midst of a weekend series against the Pirates. After that, they’ll head to the city that Clevinger called home for the first four-and-a-half years of his big-league career.

After a long road back, the righty will get the ball for Tuesday’s game.

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