Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Bob Toth | On 10, Feb 2017
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Countdown to Opening Day – 52
Mike Clevinger’s magical 2016 season included the birth of his daughter and a trip to the Cleveland Indians’ Major League roster for the first time in his career. Now, with one partial season of work under his belt, the 26-year-old right-hander will look to make continued contributions to the Indians’ pursuit of a second straight American League pennant and a return to the World Series.
Clevinger’s role in the Indians’ organization for 2017 may be up to some debate. A starter throughout his six-year professional career, he got the call to Cleveland after going 5-0 in his first seven career regular season starts at Triple-A Columbus and initially was looked at to help out a starting rotation that had lost Carlos Carrasco to injury and Cody Anderson to ineffectiveness.
The good numbers did not necessarily translate to the Major League level as he allowed 14 runs over 14 1/3 innings while giving up 16 hits (including three home runs) and seven walks.
Clevinger headed back to Columbus and continued his good pitching at the top farm level, including a stretch of three straight scoreless outings while extending his record to a perfect 8-0 through his first 13 starts.
When he rejoined the club in July, the Indians looked to him as a stopgap to plug a leaky bullpen dam that was lacking the number of durable, reliable, and rested pieces to make manager Terry Francona comfortable. His stay in Cleveland was short that trip, as he was back in the Columbus rotation for four more starts before returning to the Indians roster again in August to stay. The final time around, however, Clevinger was utilized in a variety of roles while working as a starter, a spot starter, a long man, and even a one-inning reliever.
He would go 12-4 in 27 starts for the season between Cleveland and Columbus with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 134 innings of work with 133 strikeouts and 59 walks. In relief for the Indians, he went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in seven outings with 14 strikeouts and five walks in 12 innings. He added in four games of work in the playoffs, including three appearances in the World Series, posting a 4.76 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP over five and two-thirds innings.
Now, the Indians have to figure out how best to utilize one of their top starting pitchers in the farm system. They could leave him in the minors while working as a starter or they could try to keep one of their top arms to the Majors and slip him into one of the open spots in the bullpen as a long-man or a one-inning middle reliever.
After spending time and money on supplementing their vaunted bullpen both midseason with the addition of Andrew Miller and in the offseason after making several minor trades, waiver claims, and free agent signings, the Indians may be best advised to leave Clevinger working in a stretched out role in the Columbus starting rotation. Last season should serve as reminder enough that injures to the starters can and will happen. The club lost Carrasco and Danny Salazar several times throughout the season, including a key stretch in October for the playoffs, and Corey Kluber for the final portion of the regular season, thankfully once the division crown was being claimed in Detroit. Clevinger would likely slot in as the number one starter for the Clippers, ahead of guys like Anderson, Ryan Merritt, Adam Plutko, and Shawn Morimando, all of whom saw time on the Indians roster in 2016.
There is no such thing as enough starting pitching and with that in mind, keeping Clevinger prepped and ready in Triple-A for the moment the Indians need a spot starter for a makeup date or an injury replacement in a worst case scenario would be the best plan for the Tribe moving forward. His number will get called again.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images