January 30, 2023

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Clevinger brings Sunshine; Cronenworth a win

3 min read
Right-hander sharp in 60-pitch return in a game decided by 10th-inning homer

His return on Sunday afternoon and Jake Cronenworth’s three-run home run in the 10th inning helped the Padres to a 6-4 win against the Brewers at American Family Field, completing a series victory. 

“Any time you can win three out of four against a team like that, that’s probably going to be in the playoffs, is huge,” Cronenworth said.

Clevinger — activated off the 15-day injured list with a right triceps strain ahead of his start on Sunday — didn’t seem to be bothered by the injury. He went three strong innings and allowed just one hit, one run and two walks with five strikeouts as the Padres claimed their third straight win.

“I felt a little uncalibrated the first inning,” the right-hander said. “Then I started zoning in. And by the time the third [inning] hit, I felt like I was where I was the previous start.”

Clevinger’s return came after he landed on the injured list on May 22. His last outing came on May 17 — almost three weeks ago — against the Phillies, when he tossed five-innings of one-hit baseball. That was his third outing following a long recovery from 2020 Tommy John surgery.

Some of that time off and rust showed in his first batter. 

Clevinger’s first pitch was a sinker way outside the strike zone. Then his next pitch was another sinker that Kolten Wong crushed deep for a projected 390-foot home run. But after allowing the long ball, Clevinger settled down and didn’t allow another hit the rest of his 60-pitch outing.

“He hasn’t been out there in a while,” manager Bob Melvin said. “In the beginning, he was just trying to get a feel for his pitches and throw the ball over the plate. [He] throws one center and ends up giving a homer. But it certainly didn’t affect him. I thought he pitched really well after that.”

Clevinger’s success came with a wide array of pitch selection. The veteran used six types of pitches — cutter, slider, sinker, four-seamer, changeup and curveball — to throw hitters off balance.

“Clev was great,” Melvin said. “His velo was up, and his breaking balls looked sharp.”

Clevinger leaned on his cutter and slider the most, throwing them a combined 47% with seven whiffs, which contributed to his 13 total on Sunday. He also reached 95.9 mph on his four-seam fastball, according to Statcast.

“I felt good,” Clevinger said. “Slider was moving well, I just had to change my sights to figure out where it was going to land. And once I did that, everything was moving pretty good.”

“I felt good,” Clevinger said. “Slider was moving well, I just had to change my sights to figure out where it was going to land. And once I did that, everything was moving pretty good.” 

Despite the IL stint, Clevinger stayed as ready as he could be — participating in bullpen sessions, staying competitive and having fun with his teammates. The veteran put all three of those together while recovering from his triceps injury. 

Clevinger and Joe Musgrove would play H.O.R.S.E — the classic game that is played in basketball. But the two played it in the bullpen with baseballs and the rules stayed the same. 

Pick your pitch and call your spot. 

“Me and Joe had a competitive bullpen,” Clevinger said. “We just made it more competitive. We were going pitch for pitch, location for location. You call it like you want it: cutter in.”

That competitive bullpen session helped make Clevinger ready for his start. And despite only three innings — a short outing for the 31-year-old — it was a step toward getting back to full strength. 

The Padres plan to be careful with their approach going forward. 

“It was going to be 60-65 pitches, top, today,” Melvin said. “Next time out, we will bump him up a little bit.”

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