Mike Clevinger is set to pitch for the first time since the 2020 season, as Padres manager Bob Melvin told reporters (including MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell) that Clevinger is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Ironically, San Diego is playing the Guardians, Clevinger’s team for the first four-plus years of his Major League career.
Cleveland dealt Clevinger to the Padres in August 2020 as part of a huge nine-player trade, and Clevinger proceeded to post a 2.84 ERA in four starts down the stretch for San Diego. However, an elbow impingement limited Clevinger to just a single postseason inning, and that elbow problem soon proved to be dire, as Clevinger had to undergo Tommy John surgery in November 2020. After missing all of last season recovering, Clevinger then had some knee soreness during Spring Training that further delayed his return to the mound.
One of the many success stories out of the Guardians’ pitching development system in recent years, Clevinger had a 2.96 ERA, 28% strikeout rate, and nine percent walk rate over 489 1/3 innings with Cleveland from 2017-20. His emergence as a front-of-the-rotation arm made him a major get for the Padres, even if the TJ surgery wiped out one of the two full seasons of team control that remained at the time of the trade.
It appears as though Clevinger’s return won’t result in an odd man out for San Diego’s rotation, as Melvin said that MacKenzie Gore and Nick Martinez was still lined up for Wednesday and Thursday. That would imply the Padres are going to deploy a six-man rotation for the time being, though that plan could soon be shaken up since Blake Snell is also nearing readiness after a groin strain sent him to the IL on April 10.
Since Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, and Joe Musgrove aren’t going anywhere in the rotation, the Padres could continue to use a six-man rotation once Snell is back, and then either end Gore to the minors or move Martinez into a relief role. While all of the injury concerns created plenty of uncertainty, this glut of pitching gave San Diego some flexibility with their pitching depth, as evidenced by their trade of Chris Paddack to the Twins and their willingness to discuss Dinelson Lamet in trade talks with other clubs.