Clevinger off-kilter in return, vows to be ready 'once the lights turn on'

March 30th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cactus League starts on the mound mean something.

They are the tune-ups every pitcher needs, outings every team uses as a measuring stick in the weeks leading up to Opening Day. In some ways, they offer a snapshot of what is to come during the regular season and beyond.

With that in mind, what the Padres saw from Mike Clevinger on Tuesday afternoon in his Cactus League debut during an 11-6 loss to the Giants was more important than his pitching line. They witnessed the picture of health from a pitcher who worked his way back into game action.

“It felt real, especially when the bats started cracking,” Clevinger said. “It’s been 17 months of waiting for that. It didn’t go as planned, but the only way to go is up from here.”

Clevinger, who had Tommy John surgery after the 2020 season, was charged with eight runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings against the Giants. He struck out three and walked two batters. He loaded the bases in the second inning and was replaced by Luke Westphal. The next hitter, Tommy La Stella, cleared the bases to make it 4-0.

“My arm was really late today,” Clevinger said. “I was moving too fast toward the plate, and that translates to bad command. And these guys know how to hit bad pitches.”

Clevinger was correct. The right-hander re-entered for the third inning -- Spring Training rules -- and gave up a pair of two-run home runs as the Giants increased their lead to 8-0.

“The big thing here was getting out here and competing at the Major League level,” Clevinger said. “I think once I get my feet wet a little bit, I’ll get back to being comfortable again.”

Clevinger should get at least one more Spring Training start. Although it’s uncertain when he will pitch in the regular season, we do know that he will have workload restrictions as he builds his arm up. He threw 51 pitches Tuesday.

“I’ll be ready once the lights turn on,” Clevinger said. “It’s going to be different once the season comes around. It will be more of a plan of attack and not just feeling it out. Being acclimated and it’s going to be ‘Go time’ -- and that’s going to be a big difference maker for me.”

Gore shines
MacKenzie Gore, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the club’s No. 4 prospect, is giving the Padres a lot to think about this spring.

The 23-year-old left-hander retired the three batters he faced in the fourth inning and pitched another scoreless frame in the fifth. Michael Gigliotti’s two-run home run in the sixth was his only blemish – the first two runs off Gore all spring.

“He’s been fantastic,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “Every time out, he’s focused. He’s throwing all of his pitches, and his command is good. His velo is good. … He just continues to impress in every outing.”

Gore struck out four and walked one batter -- the first walk he has issued this spring after having command issues the past two years.

“Every time he pitches like that, we certainly have to think about what his potential might be,” Melvin said.

Beaty to start
Matt Beaty will get a chance to make his mark with the Padres when he starts in left field for the first time with his new team Wednesday against the Brewers in Peoria, Melvin said.

Beaty made his Padres debut Tuesday as a substitute at first base and went 1-for-2 with a run scored.

The versatile left-handed hitter was acquired from the Dodgers in a trade for Minor Leaguer pitcher/infielder River Ryan on Monday.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to go out there and do whatever Bob wants,” Beaty said. “Let them know I can play first or third or left or right or whatever the team needs. I’m excited to go out there and compete and help the team win.”