Posted on June 12, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
It’s happening a little sooner than expected but it was still a long wait. After more than two months on the shelf, Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger is finally ready to rejoin the Tribe. The club announced Wednesday that Clevinger will be activated from the Injured List in time to start next Monday against the Texas Rangers. He figures to provide a shot in the arm to a team and starting rotation that could use one right about now.
Clevinger went to the IL on April 9 because of a muscle strain in the upper part of his back. At the time, it was a huge early-season blow to the Indians. Clevinger went 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA over 32 starts last season. He followed that up by giving up no runs on just two hits in 12 innings over his first two starts of the 2019 season. Needless to say, he was missed in Cleveland’s rotation.
The initial diagnosis for Clevinger called for him to be absent from baseball activities for at least six to eight weeks. Even that was considered a little optimistic. However, after working his way back and making two minor league rehab starts, Clevinger will return to the mound Monday night exactly 10 weeks after receiving his diagnosis and much sooner than the Indians expected him to return.
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“Every single injury to date in baseball, they didn’t pick up a ball for six-to-eight weeks,” said Clevinger. “I got lucky, I guess you could say. It’s hard to say after an injury you got lucky, but that was kind of the case here. I definitely think I’m ready.”
Obviously, it’ll be difficult for Clevinger to pick up where he left off. As mentioned, he was nearly perfect in his first two starts before being sidelined. His first minor league rehab start also left a lot to be desired. However, Clevinger tossed 5.1 scoreless innings at double-A on Tuesday night, giving the Indians a reason to be optimistic that he’ll be able to get back on track upon his return to the majors.
“Last night was really good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said Wednesday. “Will he be able to command all his pitches the way he did with six weeks in spring training with a couple starts? I don’t know. You hope. But we’ll keep an eye on him and try to build him up in a way that he can stay healthy and be healthy and productive, but sure is exciting to see what he’s doing.”
Ideally, Clevinger would be given another start or two before returning. But these are somewhat desperate times for Cleveland. The Indians are just two games above .500 and 10.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central. They are also dealing with a rash of injuries to their starting rotation. Nearly six weeks after suffering a broken arm, Corey Kluber has no timeline for a return. Carlos Carrasco is also out indefinitely because of a blood disorder. Despite the emergence of rookie Zach Plesac, the Indians need Clevinger back in the rotation as soon as possible.
Clevinger’s early return from the IL is the first good news the Indians have received on the injury front in a long time. For Cleveland, it’s a big part of the puzzle being put back into place. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s a big first step in the Indians getting their rotation healthy again. Obviously, there’s still a lot of ground to make up. But with a healthy rotation, the Indians shouldn’t be counted out of making a 2nd half push to win the AL Central or become a favorite in the Wild Card race. It’ll take more than Clevinger to do it. However, his return on Monday will be a good start.