CLEVELAND, Ohio – After the Indians traded Mike Clevinger to San Diego on Monday, I remembered the primary time I talked to the pitcher.
It was the spring of 2016, I used to be on the Tribe’s complicated in Goodyear. I wished to write down a narrative about minor leaguers traded in the midst of the season for big-league gamers.
It’s value remembering how only a few of us within the media or followers following the Tribe had even heard of Clevinger when he came to the Tribe on August 7, 2014. On the time, Clevinger was 23. He had a 1-Three report and 5.37 ERA with the Class A Island Empire crew within the Angels farm system.
“I used to be throwing within the excessive 80s mph,” Clevinger instructed me that spring day. “I used to be nonetheless attempting to construct my arm up after surgical procedure.”
This was two years after he had Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgical procedure. Clevinger wasn’t on any lists of the Angels’ high prospects.
“I used to be within the weight room,” he stated. “The pitching coach got here in and stated ’put these weights down proper now, we have to discuss to you.”
Clevinger thought he had finished one thing improper. Or worse. Perhaps he was being launched.
As an alternative, he was instructed he had been traded to Cleveland.
“It was a complete shock,” he stated.
HE ONCE HAD A SHAVED HEAD
Clevinger had just one Division I scholarship supply after graduating from Wolfson Excessive in Jacksonville, Fla. It was from The Citadel, a navy faculty in Charleston, S.C.
Onerous to think about the shaggy-haired Clevinger along with his head shaved as a freshman “knob” on the Citadel, however that certainly occurred. He stated he’d at all times had lengthy hair earlier than faculty, however he was prepared to offer it as much as play baseball.
On the Citadel, Clevinger had a 5-Three report with a 5.15 ERA. He struck out 77 in 93 innings. Underwhelming stats, to say the least. A scout instructed Clevinger to think about transferring to a junior faculty so he’d be eligible for the draft the following yr. The professionals had been fascinated with Clevinger for 2 causes:
1. At 6-foot-Four and 200 kilos, he regarded like a pitcher.
2. His fastball was clocked at 93 mph.
Clevinger transferred to Seminole Junior School in Florida. He was put within the bullpen, instructed to come back into the sport and throw as onerous as potential.
As a reliever, Clevinger had a 1-2 report and a couple of.84 ERA, putting out 52 in 32 innings. That led to the Angels choosing him within the fourth spherical of 2011, signing him for $250,000.
Clevinger pitched solely eight video games and 45 innings within the Angels farm system earlier than he harm his elbow. He spent about 18 months recovering, after which was not spectacular when he did pitch in Class A.
In 2014, the Indians had been having a disappointing season. Vinnie Pestano had as soon as been a superb reliever (2010-12), however he had arm issues and was in Class AAA. The Tribe positioned him on waivers. The Angels claimed him.
Somewhat than take cash for Pestano, the Indians requested for a prospect. Names had been exchanged. Clevinger was not near No. 1 on the listing.
The Indians had been trying within the decrease ranges of the Angels farm system. They observed Clevinger had struck out 58 in 55 innings in Class A. They at all times desire a younger pitcher who strikes out at the least one batter per inning. They checked their scouting experiences from Clevinger’s time in junior faculty. That they had him clocked at 94 mph. He projected as a hard-throwing reliever again then.
Perhaps he might come again from Tommy John surgical procedure and start lighting up the radar gun once more. The Indians thought maybe he might assist in the bullpen.
So that they took Clevinger.
Neither Clevinger or the Tribe had a clue of what was to come back.
“At a time the place I felt misplaced, you traded for me,” Clevinger stated on his gracious and stylish farewell video.
The Indians are recognized for his or her farm system that develops pitchers. They put Clevinger on a program to strengthen his arm. They taught him a breaking ball. Two years after coming to the Tribe, he first made the majors. It took some time, however Clevinger established himself within the Tribe’s rotation in 2017.
By the point of Monday’s commerce, Clevinger had a 42-22 profession report with a Three.20 ERA. Within the final 18 months, he has battled accidents: A sore shoulder and sprained ankle in 2019, minor knee surgical procedure this spring.
It’s a disgrace Clevinger leaves after the crew points with breaking a curfew and the dearth of accountability afterwards. The Indians had been already trying to deal him as his $Four.1 million wage was prone to double in 2021. The Indians additionally wished so as to add prospects on the major- and minor-league ranges.
“I don’t suppose one mistake in my life goes to outline me or my profession,” Clevinger stated on a Zoom name after the commerce.
Now 29 and considering again, Clevinger stated this in regards to the Tribe and their followers: “They’ve had my again by means of thick and skinny, that’s one thing I’m not ever going to overlook.”
And I’ll at all times keep in mind Clevinger because the overachiever who actually did beat the percentages to grow to be a terrific big-league pitcher.
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