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Clevinger sees hard work pay off in career year

After tossing 6 scoreless in clincher, righty closing in on 200-inning mark
September 16, 2018

CLEVELAND -- With his shoulder-length hair soaked in champagne, Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger was asked what this moment meant for him. When Cleveland acquired him, he was coming off elbow surgery and required delivery reconstruction. Four years later, he picked up the win in a division-clinching game."That's a real heavy

CLEVELAND -- With his shoulder-length hair soaked in champagne, Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger was asked what this moment meant for him. When Cleveland acquired him, he was coming off elbow surgery and required delivery reconstruction. Four years later, he picked up the win in a division-clinching game.
"That's a real heavy question right now," Clevinger said with a laugh during Saturday night's celebration.
Clevinger has come an incredibly long way since joining the Tribe as more of a project than a prospect. Now, the right-hander has established himself as a regular in Cleveland's talent-heavy rotation and one of the more durable starters in the game. In the process, though, Clevinger has logged more innings and pitches than he has at any point in his career.
Entering Sunday, Clevinger ranked fifth in the American League in innings (188 1/3), while ranking fourth in the Majors in pitches per game (102) and sixth in baseball in pitches overall (3,061). The Indians will keep a close eye on Clevinger's workload over the next two weeks as the playoffs approach, but there are no concrete plans to have the righty take his foot off the gas.
"We try to use common sense," said Indians manager Terry Francona. "You play the game the right way, and if we think we need to take a guy out of a game some time, we will. But, to me, his tank looks like it's going back up as opposed to the other way."
Along those lines, Clevinger's pitch velocity has climbed steadily throughout this season. Per Statcast™, his 94.5-mph average on his four-seamer in September is the highest of any month, following the 94.0-mph average posted in both July and August. Clevinger's fastball averaged 92.4 mph in April, 93.0 mph in May and 93.5 mph in June.
In 30 starts, Clevinger has gone 12-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 196 strikeouts against 62 walks. His 4.2 WAR (per Fangraphs) ranked seventh in the AL, and 11th in MLB, entering Sunday's action.
The late-season life on his pitches is partially the result of a mechanical adjustment, which involved improving his balance and aggressiveness down the mound slope in order to gain more extension. Throughout the season, Clevinger has also picked up things from the other Indians starters and implemented them into his own between-start routine.
Back in the spring, Clevinger picked Corey Kluber's brain about his shoulder care program, which includes using a blood flow restriction device. During periods of heavy usage this season, Clevinger has also adopted Trevor Bauer's approach of only doing weighted-ball work the day after a start.
Things like that have helped Clevinger close in on a 200-inning season, which has always been one of his goals.
"I've always wanted that workload," Clevinger said. "I wanted to be able to stay in and go deeper and just be able to log that amount of pitches. It's good to see that it's finally paying off, that the recovery and strengthening process is paying off now in the later innings."
Worth noting
• Francona was thrilled with the timing of Cleveland clinching its third straight AL Central title. By completing that task on Saturday, the manager was able to give regulars like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes two days off. They were out of the lineup on Sunday, and the Tribe has a team off-day on Monday.
"It's perfect," Francona said. "This is exactly how I would've drawn it up. The guys that have played pretty much every day get today and tomorrow. Then, we can come back and it gives us 13 games to kick it back in and get prepared for the next step."
• Third baseman Josh Donaldson was in the lineup on Sunday and has been playing on an every-other-day basis since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday. Francona said that Donaldson should be cleared to begin playing in consecutive games following Monday's off-day.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.