Mike Clevinger shares emotional revelation after first start since Tommy John
Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger reveals he never thought he’d pitch again after Tommy John surgery
When San Diego Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger finally took the mound for his first start of the season earlier this week, it was a bigger moment than anyone else realized.
Not because he was facing the Cleveland Guardians, the team he’d come up with and pitched on for five years, though that did add a special layer to the occasion.
And not because of the performance itself. He allowed three earned runs on four hits. That’s not really the point.
The achievement was being out there at all, after undergoing one of the most intense surgeries in sports, one which carries a recovery and rehab timetable of 12-18 months.
In November 2020, he had Tommy John surgery, and unsurprisingly, it was no picnic. But after his start, Clevinger revealed that he wasn’t sure he’d ever pitch again.
Before his trade to San Diego, Clevinger was subtly excellent in Cleveland. After a bit of a rocky start in his debut season in 2016, he found his form. Between 2017-19, the righty posted a 2.96 ERA over 80 games (74 starts), including a complete-game shutout and a game finished. He struck out 513 batters over 447 2/3 innings.
It made sense why the Padres traded for him in the middle of the shortened 2020 season. He had a 3.18 ERA over four starts at the time, and lowered it to a 2.84 when he made four more with his new team.
By mid-November, team and player agreed to a two-year extension, despite the team knowing Clevinger needed his surgery, which they announced the same day as the new contract.
It’s been a long road back for Clevinger, who even survived a harrowing flight in April to stay on track with his rehab. And until he opened up to the media this week, we had no idea how difficult it was, which goes to show that the rest of the world often doesn’t see athletes as more than numbers on a page or names on the back of a uniform. But they are.
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, his vulnerability is an important reminder that athletes’ journeys are about mental health just as much as physical.