Mike Clevinger’s Return Answers Multiple Rotation Issues For Padres

To say that the 2021 season was a disappointment for the San Diego Padres may be an understatement. Armed with two of the biggest stars in the game, the Padres fell flat on their faces down the stretch and missed the playoffs by a large margin.

Going into the All-Star break, the Padres owned a 53-40 record, good for six games back of the eventual division winner San Francisco Giants. They were also the owners of a plus-75 run differential.

By time it was all said and done, San Diego finished 28 games back of the division lead, and that massive run differential had shrunk all the way down to 21. From August 11 to the end of the season the Padres went 12-34, the worst mark in all of baseball.

While there was plenty of blame to go around, most of the struggles could be attributed to the pitching staff, namely the rotation.

The frustrating part in that is just how much the Padres invested in their starting pitching going into the season, making deals to acquire Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish all in the same offseason.

Still, the Padres pitching staff finished in the middle of the pack or later in several key statistical categories, including ERA (14th) FIP (16th), WaR (18th), opponent’s average (14th), and exit velocity allowed (14th).

Not the results you wanted to see after the front office invested so much prospect capital in the offseason to acquire the arms they did.

There is another pitcher that the Padres added in 2020 that missed this most recent season with an injury, that as they try to pick up the pieces and look towards 2022 can play a big part in solidifying the rotation.

Mike Clevinger was picked up at the trade deadline in 2020 along with Greg Allen from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Josh Naylor, Austin Hedges, Cal Quantrill, Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo, and Owen Miller.

Not exactly a light haul to get the now 30-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida.

In his time with the Indians, Clevinger posted a 42-22 record with a 3.20 EAR, 1.196 WHIP and a K/9 of 10.

He started to show that he could be that front line pitcher immediately coming over from Cleveland, and in four starts with the Padres before his injury posted a 2-1 record with a 2.84 ERA, 19 strikeouts in 19 innings and owned an 0.895 WHIP.

Clevinger left his September 23rd start against the Los Angeles Angels after just one inning. He returned in the NLDS for Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, walking three in just an inning plus before leaving the game early.

He would later need Tommy John surgery, but the Padres showed a sign of faith in their righty, signing him to a two-year contract worth $11.5 million before Clevinger had his procedure done. The deal buys out his final years of arbitration and will make him a free agent at the end of the agreement.

While all signs point to Clevinger being ready to go at the start of the season, you can be sure that the Padres will be monitoring his workload in 2022. He still joins a rotation that despite the pedigree, has it’s question marks to it.

He does help the biggest concern of the current staff, and that’s the depth. San Diego struggled to find arms to fill the innings needed to close out the season. After the All-Star break, no starting staff threw less innings than the Padres’ rotation did, mostly due to having to constantly opt for ‘bullpen’ games.

The desperation hit its peak when they were forced to use Vince Velazquez and Jake Arrieta as starters down the stretch despite the pair being released from their previous teams.

Adding depth to their organization will be key for the Padres, so there isn’t a repeat of 2021. The Alex Cobb, Jon Gray, Corey Kluber or Marcus Stroman when free agency hits, which would certainly add some depth. They will also have Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack and Ryan Weathers has options, all of which started at some point this season but could benefit more from being multi-inning options out of the bullpen. It would be even better if MacKenzie Gore could recapture some of what it was that made him one of the best prospects in the minors. He is currently working on things in the Arizona Fall League with the Peoria Javelinas.

Clevinger, however, is the perfect answer for what the Padres are missing. His return adds depth to the rotation, but he has the stuff be at the top of it. While he’ll have his innings watched closely to start, by the end of the season we could see the same pitcher we saw when he first came to San Diego, all at the point where things started falling apart for them in 2021.”

It would be even better if MacKenzie Gore could recapture some of what it was that made him one of the best prospects in the minors. He is currently working on things in the Arizona Fall League with the Peoria Javelinas.

Clevinger, however, is the perfect answer for what the Padres are missing. His return adds depth to the rotation, but he has the stuff be at the top of it. While he’ll have his innings watched closely to start, by the end of the season we could see the same pitcher we saw when he first came to San Diego, all at the point where things started falling apart for them in 2021.

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