CLEVELAND (AP) — Mike Clevinger is rejoining the Indians’ rotation sooner than anyone — other than him — expected.
The right-hander, whose season seemed in jeopardy when he strained a muscle in his upper back on April 7, will start Monday when Cleveland opens a four-game series at Texas. It’s been an unexpectedly quick comeback for Clevinger.
The team’s medical staff didn’t think he’d pick up a ball for 6 to 8 weeks, but the hard-working, hard-throwing Clevinger bounced back. He’ll face major league hitters following two minor league rehab starts.
“I got lucky, I guess you could say,” Clevinger said Wednesday before the Indians wrapped up a two-game series with Cincinnati. “It’s hard to say after an injury you got lucky, but that was kind of the case here.”
It’s also finally some good fortune for the Indians, who have been without ace Corey Kluber (broken arm) and Carlos Carrasco (blood condition) as they try to stay in striking distance of the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.
Kluber will get his six-week evaluation Thursday, and the Indians are hoping for more good news.
Clevinger pitched five scoreless innings for Double-A Akron on Tuesday, allowing three hits and striking out five. His velocity was in the mid-90s and manager Terry Francona said the reports on the 28-year-old have been overwhelmingly favorable.
“Last night was really good,” he said. “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.”
Francona said it was a challenge to hold Clevinger back as he recovered.
“I would say that is the understatement of the year,” he cracked. “It’s the reason he probably got better quick, too. The ‘want-to’ is so strong. I remember the first time he threw down in Miami, I thought James (Quinlan, team trainer) was going pull a hammy trying to slow him down, but you see where he is now.”
Clevinger, who went 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA last season, said he pushed Cleveland’s medical staff as hard as he could — even from the moment he left his second start of the season the fifth inning.
“I was trying to come back and throw the next day,” he said. “I asked them every day even though I knew the timeline. I was like, ‘I feel good, can I throw today?’ I asked them every day to the point they that they were just getting (mad) at me for asking.
“I just saw the timeline and I was like, if anything, I want to be back before the All-Star break. I always had that in my mind, that I wanted to be back before then.”
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