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Padres “Hopeful” Clevinger Returns to Rotation in 2022

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The blockbuster trade that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego did not get off to a great start last year when he was sidelined with Tommy John surgery. Once this lockout is over, however, he could be looking to return to a struggling rotation that was ranked 16th overall last season.

The Final Piece

His journey to the majors has been a long one given he was drafted back in 2011 by the Los Angeles Angels and it wasn’t until 2016 that he made his first professional start with the Cleveland Guardians, formerly the Cleveland Indians. Since then, he remained a staple in their rotation and developed an aggressive yet tempered delivery that always kept hitters on their toes and aware at all times. His ERA also never went higher than 3.18 in a given year and has gone down as far as 2.71 when he is at his best.

Now, I may seem crazy for stating that a guy who is still on the rise could be the missing piece for such an elite rotation but hear me out first. The Padres dealt with less than two-thirds of a rotation last year as Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Chris Paddack’s injury history caught up with them yet again and the free agents they added offered little to no help. Clevinger has not been known to spend too much if any, time on the IR during the season so not rushing him back from an impactful surgery like Tommy John was key to rehabbing him correctly.

Something that is keeping this rotation down, however, is the fact that even when he comes back, they will still be short on reliable starting pitching depth. The next man up as a replacement would be Ryan Weathers who did not perform as well as the organization had hoped but was still able to remain the healthiest out of all five starters. At this rate, I wouldn’t even call Paddack a reliable starter because his last three seasons have produced more injury and rehab highlights than actual pitching ones.

No pressure to rush back of course but keep in mind, the Padres did trade five good players just to get one stud of a pitcher so the clock is ticking on his return. I personally miss seeing a guy like him out on the bump because the delivery he uses combined with his pitch repertoire only makes him scarier when batters have to step in the box. Sunshine, as his teammates named him back in 2018 due to his resemblance to Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass from Remember the Titans, has a veteran presence that could encapsulate younger talent and give them the support they need to own their skills on the big stage.

What’s In The Back?

Even without other veteran presence in case fill ins are needed yet again for this rotation, the Padres do have other options in their system. The most notable being southpaw MacKenzie Gore who was drafted third overall by the Padres in the 2017 draft while simultaneously being handed a whopping $6.7 million as his signing bonus. The past two years have definitely altered his narrative since his numbers are not exaclty where they should be which was reflected in his drop down to the 80th best prospect in MLB’s pipeline. Regardless, beggers can not be choosey here so if it were any time to make his big league debut, it would most likely come in the 2022 season.

Dinelson Lamet could also be sought out again to fill in but if he performs anywhere close to how he did last season, then they miight as well set their sights elsewhere. Jake Arrieta was a huge failure for this team even though he has a Cy Young to his name (I know that was back in 2015 but still) so I think it is safe to assume he will not be back in this clubhouse anytime soon. Regardless, the season can not officially start until both the MLB and MLBPA end the lockout so the potential for no baseball this year is not out of the question any longer.

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main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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