Late last week, the San Diego Padres outlasted the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-three Wild Card Series thanks largely to their bullpen. None of their starters completed as many three innings, and nine pitchers combined to shut out St. Louis in their Game 3 win (SD 4, STL 0). It was San Diego's first postseason series victory since 1998.
The Padres had to rely so heavily on their bullpen because righties Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, their top two starters, went down with arm injuries late in the regular season. Clevinger battled biceps tightness and exited his Sept. 23 start after one inning. He was later diagnosed with an elbow impingement. Lamet left his Sept. 25 start with a biceps issue.
Clevinger and Lamet have been playing catch in recent days and it's possible Clevinger will be available for the NLDS against the Dodgers, reports ESPN's Pedro Gomez. MLB reporter Robert Murray says Clevinger felt "great" following his most recent throwing session, though manager Jayce Tingler understandably downplayed his NLDS availability.
"Possibly. Maybe," Tingler told reporters, including Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, when asked about Clevinger's (and Lamet's) availability for the NLDS.
Clevinger, 29,. He threw 41 2/3 innings with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, including a 2.84 ERA in four starts and 19 innings with San Diego. When healthy, Clevinger is among the best pitchers in the sport. He's a true difference-maker.
Being on the NLDS roster is only part of the equation. The big question is how effective will Clevinger be, and how much can he pitch? He received a cortisone injection in his elbow a week ago and has thrown one inning in the last three weeks. Given the layoff and the nature of his injury, it seems unlikely Clevinger will be a full-fledged 100-pitch starter in the NLDS.
That said, some Clevinger is better than no Clevinger, especially with Lamet sidelined indefinitely. The Padres were able to bullpen their way through the three-game Wild Card Series against the Cardinals. Against the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers in the best-of-five NLDS though? That would be much more difficult.
The NLDS begins Tuesday and teams have until 10 a.m. ET that morning to submit their active roster. Expect San Diego to take as much time as possible to evaluate Clevinger. The Dodgers and Padres will play their series at the brand new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.