Aug. 26: Cleveland has officially recalled Clevinger and optioned catcher Beau Taylor to the alternate site in a corresponding move. It’s worth noting, too, that while there’d been some drama surrounding the possibility that Clevinger’s path to free agency would be delayed if he spent 20 or more days at the alternate site, he’ll fall shy of that mark and remain on track for free agency after the 2022 campaign.
Aug. 25: The Indians announced that right-hander Mike Clevinger will be recalled from their alternate training site prior to tomorrow’s game with the Twins. Clevinger will get the start in his return to big league action.
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Clevinger, who went from being the nominal ace of the Cleveland rotation to being placed on the restricted list, then sent to the club’s alternate training site, and now could even be a trade candidate. It all stems from the now-infamous incident that saw Clevinger and Zach Plesac violate the Tribe’s COVID-19 protocols by leaving the team hotel for a night out in Chicago, and then not admitting their fault until the club itself discovered the transgression. Clevinger’s involvement didn’t even come to light until Plesac had already issued an apology to his teammates after being quarantined.
The incident left many Indians players understandably upset at Clevinger and Plesac, particularly after Plesac compounded the problem with an Instagram video blaming the media for allegedly exaggerating the situation. In regards to Plesac, Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told MLB.com’s Mandy Bell and other reporters that after Clevinger’s recall was announced, Antonetti called Plesac to say “they don’t have an opportunity for him at this time at the Major League level.” As such, Plesac will continue to pitch at the alternate training site until an opening develops (or, given the August 31 trade deadline is nearing, perhaps until a trade can be worked out).
Amidst all this controversy, the Tribe is 17-12 and in possession of a wild card spot. Somewhat incredibly, Cleveland has barely missed Clevinger or Plesac, with Shane Bieber posting Cy Young-caliber numbers, Aaron Civale and Carlos Carrasco pitching well, and Triston McKenzie coming off an eye-opening Major League debut. Adam Plutko hasn’t been as effective, so he will likely be the odd man out now that Clevinger is back…or, perhaps just until Clevinger himself is dealt.
Clevinger has had an up-and-down year even just in terms of his on-field results. While he has a 3.24 ERA over 16 2/3 innings, ERA indicators (6.25 FIP, 5.38 xFIP, 5.46 SIERA) and batted-ball data (a .376 xwOBA that is much higher than his .338 wOBA) hint that Clevinger hasn’t been himself on the mound. Clevinger has been aided by a .205 BABIP and a 97.6% strand rate, while already allowing four home runs and 10 walks over his 16 2/3 frames.