PEORIA, Ariz. – San Diego right-hander Mike Clevinger is inspired by poet Kahlil Gibran in a return from a second Tommy John surgery.
Clevinger said Gibran’s “The Prophet” is his favorite book, and in a recent Twitter post he quoted Gibran:
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Twice-scarred Clevinger, one of the most effective pitchers in the majors when healthy, is on track to regain his spot in the Padres’ starting rotation after missing 2021.
The 31-year-old Clevinger enters the season with no limitations following surgery in September 2020, manager Bob Melvin said. With his return to a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell, the possibilities seem limitless.
“When we’re firing on all cylinders, we can compete with anybody on the planet,” said Clevinger, who is scheduled to make his first appearance in a spring training game Tuesday.
“This is a pretty outrageous lineup we’ve got. Same with the rotation. When you look at some of the arms coming out of the bullpen, we just need to put it together. I think that’s what we were missing last year. People were dealing with a lot of different things, injuries.”
The Padres believe that Clevinger, 41-20 with a 2.96 ERA from 2017-20, can play a big part in the recovery as they face the prospect of playing without All-Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for the first three months because of a fractured wrist.
Clevinger’s return would be “huge,” Melvin said.
“Not only performance but leadership,” Melvin said. “The intensity that he brings to the mound kind of permeates to the players on the field. He’s working hard all the time. My experience in the past with him is, guys like playing behind him.”
Acquired from Cleveland for the 2020 stretch run, Clevinger helped pitch the Padres into the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers before suffering his second elbow injury. The first was in 2012.
He won two of his first three starts in San Diego, including a seven-inning shutout against San Francisco on Sept. 13. But he was removed after throwing only one inning in his next start Sept. 23.
Clevinger’s peripheral numbers also stood out in 2017-20, when he had a 1.15 WHIP and averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
“A healthy Clevinger will add to any club,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It was fun to see him put in the work behind the scenes (in 2021) and lead up to where he is now. He’s going to be around the plate, he competes, and he has nasty stuff.”
Clevinger looked the part in his first spring training appearance in a minor league game last Wednesday, his first time off a mound in 18 months. He retired all 10 batters he faced on 41 pitches with a fastball sitting at 94 mph.
“That first inning felt like Game 7 of the World Series,” Clevinger said. “But after that I calmed down, kept my heart rate back and was able to work on some things. It went well.”
Health and the World Series are the goals this season.
“All of us, we want to go deep into games,” Clevinger said of the rotation. “We want to pitch late in the season. That’s the goal here. World Series.”
“The way I have felt through this process has been night-and-day different from my first Tommy John,” Clevinger said.
“It has been so much smoother and cleaner. I think the technology is so far advanced than when I got my first one 10 years ago. This has been a breeze almost, except the waiting game.”
The waiting was the most difficult part, he said.
“It was hard to try to stay positive through this whole process and not go dark,” Clevinger said.
“It’s so easy with some things out there – like not coming back from TJ, sitting out 16 months. But it’s been a good process. It’s been a good learning experience for myself.”