Clevinger making 'really promising' progress
McKenzie eyeing return; Tito praises Rocchio
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday that Mike Clevinger’s next step in his rehab process will be to advance from throwing on flat ground to simulating pitching on the mound without a ball to get used to landing downhill on his surgically repaired knee. But the Tribe’s skipper may not have anticipated that Clevinger would be ready to take that step just 24 hours later.
Clevinger underwent surgery to repair the partially torn meniscus in his left knee on Feb. 14 and began a throwing program on Friday, exactly two weeks later. Over the weekend, he extended his flat-ground catch sessions out to 75 feet and pushed himself to 150 feet on Tuesday afternoon. Because of how well it went, he moved over to the mound to start doing his simulations.
“Yeah, I mean, they’re obviously monitoring and playing it all really safe, but kind of letting me see how my body is reacting,” Clevinger said. “So I got on it kind of a lot the first time, which they kind of let me go after it. We started rolling today. It was a really, really, really promising day of catch.”
The right-hander said he was nervous to see how his body would react once he began throwing again, because his left leg is his plant leg. When he lands, he locks his knee and spins outwardly, which caused him to worry whether that would prompt any sort of setback, but he’s been pleased to feel no discomfort thus far.
“I mean, me not ever having leg ailments, I was nervous, especially as violent as I throw, it’s not a secret,” Clevinger said. “I knew it was going be a coin flip almost of whether or not it’s gonna take and what time for me to respond back to it because of the way I throw. It was even more promising that my secondary stuff was still there. So that was probably the biggest part of the day, besides the knee, [that] I still had all my other stuff working.”
Now that he’s already advanced to simulating his windup on the mound, Clevinger said he’ll wait to see how he feels on Wednesday. Assuming he bounces back as expected, the next step will be to plan when he’ll be able to pitch from the rubber.
Could McKenzie see game action this spring?
Triston McKenzie expressed over the weekend how anxious he can get while waiting to return to game action. He missed the entire 2019 season with upper back and pectoral strains and hasn’t pitched in a game since August '18. He’s thrown live batting practice and pitched simulated innings, but now the Indians are left to determine whether he should see time in a big league Spring Training game.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s in his best interest, whether it’s facing hitters on a back field,” said Francona. “You know there’s going to be a ramp up of intensity when he pitches in a game, and we want to make sure we’re putting him in the best position to succeed. Throwing one inning in a Major League game, although it would be fun to watch, we’re still trying to figure out if that puts him in the best position or not.”
Rocchio the MVP
While half of the team was in Las Vegas over the weekend playing against the A’s, the Indians called on a handful of Minor Leaguers to help fill in some innings, including 19-year-old infielder Brayan Rocchio. Last spring, Rocchio was brought over to start one of the Tribe’s spring games, having a solid defensive showing and recording a triple. This year, the team’s No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline went 3-for-3 with a three-run homer on Sunday, prompting Francona to give him a special title.
“We had Rocchio come over to the Major League side [again on Monday] because we voted him MVP of the game,” Francona said with a big smile. “We try to do some fun things, but it is enjoyable to watch those guys play.”
After experiencing discomfort in his groin through the first few weeks of camp, Aaron Civale will make his spring debut on Wednesday at Salt River Fields against the D-backs. The 24-year-old righty originally felt the soreness during defensive drills and has thrown simulated innings on the backfields at the Indians’ Spring Training facility thus far. Lefty Madison Bumgarner will get the ball for Arizona. First pitch is slated for 3:10 p.m. ET, available live on MLB.TV.