After His Breakout, Clevinger Has Become A Pitcher to Know
Danny Madden | On 29, Nov 2015
“Pitching wins baseball,” as the old saying goes. You can never have enough pitching on a team, even with a rotation like the Indians have. After the emergence of Michael Clevinger in 2015, the depth of the Indians staff got quite a bit deeper.
Clevinger, 24, was acquired by the Indians from the Los Angeles Angels in 2014 for former Bullpen Mafia member Vinnie Pestano. Prior to being traded, Clevinger was having a rough go of it with LA. After posting an ERA of 1.88 in 5 games with their Low-A Burlington, he faltered in High-A Inland Empire with an ERA of 5.37 in 13 starts. After Pestano lost his role in Cleveland, the Tribe decided to let him have another opportunity to perform, and the Angels were interested. Thus, this allowed Cleveland to acquire Clevinger, the one time fourth round pick by the Angels in 2011.
Once Clevinger arrived in 2014, he started in four games for the High-A Carolina Mudcats. He had an ERA of 4.87, a K/9 of 6.6, and a BB/9 of 4.9. It was nothing extremely impressive, but it wasn’t terrible either. In 2015, though, Clevinger seemed to figure it all out again.
To start the season, Clevinger was sent to Double-A Akron, where he started 26 games for the RubberDucks. In those 26 starts, he had a record of 9-8 with an ERA of 2.73, a K/9 of 8.3, and a BB/9 of 2.3, his lowest of his career. He struck out 145 batters to the 40 batters that he walked. His WHIP sat at 1.06 in 158 innings.
Before Clevinger came to the Cleveland organization, his mechanics seemed to be off, which led to him having issues when he was pitching for the Angels. When he arrived in Cleveland, the first thing they did was evaluate how his mechanics were working and what was going wrong. The pitching coaches were able to locate the issue and gave Clevinger an entirely new workout routine to try and refine approach to each batter, but especially in his windup.
During the season, Clevinger adopted a small hitch in his windup. He would pause part way through his windup to allow himself to focus on where he wanted to locate his pitch. This also created a slight deception against the batter. This pitching mechanic also allowed Clevinger to apply more force into his pitches by pushing off of his back foot just a tad more.
The results showed in the second half of the season in 2015. In May, he had an ERA of 3.53, when he was developing this hitch in his windup. He then followed that up with an ERA of 1.84 in June.
After his phenomenal season at Double-A Akron, Clevinger was selected by Triple-A Columbus to start in one of their playoff games. In his first start, he threw seven and two-thirds innings of no-hit baseball. He led the Clippers to a 5-0 win over Norfolk and got them into the Governors’ Cup Finals.
Following the season’s end, the Indians added Clevinger to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. This is huge for a minor league player because it gives them security going forward with their team. This shows that the Indians have faith in Clevinger’s abilities and have plans for him in the future.
In the midst of a breakout season, Clevinger stated that he “felt like a new pitcher” after everything the Indians had done for him since his arrival. It won’t be long until Clevinger makes his debut with the big league club.
Photo: Liana Holub/DTTWLN Photographer