CLEVELAND — Mike Clevinger’s comeback is speeding along like one of his fastballs.
Cleveland’s starter has made startling progress from an upper back strain that threatened his season and was expected to sideline him for several months. But the right-hander, who wasn’t expected to be able to pick up a ball for at least two months, will throw his second bullpen session on Friday. He got back on the mound last week in Chicago, throwing 20 pitches.
“He got a ways to go now to get back,” Indians manager Terry Francona said before Thursday’s series opener against Baltimore. “But my goodness, if you had told me a month ago that he’d be where he is now ... we’re pretty fortunate.”
Clevinger was removed from a start on April 7 after five innings — he struck out 10 — against Toronto with tightness in his back. Initially, he didn’t think he’d miss any time, but imaging tests revealed the strain and the Indians feared they’d be without Clevinger until August. He was placed on the 60-day injured list April 14, and isn’t eligible to be activated until June 7.
His loss became more costly when Indians two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber had his right arm broken by a line drive earlier this month.
Clevinger made 35 throws in the outfield Thursday, unleashing 20 fastballs while mixing in a couple breaking pitches.
“Everything feels strong,” he said. “Feels good. Just kind of out of sync right now on the mound. So just trying to find the mechanics again. Kind of feels like starting spring training over again.”
Clevinger has been thrilled by his progress, and isn’t really surprised by it. He’s always been a hard worker and has never one to sit around and wait for results.
“If you’re gonna do something, why not do it to its full extent,” the laid-back, 28-year-old said. “I’ve always looked at everything that way.”
Clevinger went 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA last season, and his arrival only strengthened one of the AL’s best starting staffs.