The San Diego Padres acquired right-hander Mike Clevinger from Cleveland before the Aug. 31 trade deadline, hoping to have Clevinger cement their rotation ahead of the 2020 postseason. Now, as Clevinger continues to deal with an elbow posterior impingement, he may not be available at all in this year's playoffs, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.
Clevinger, 29, threw a 23-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday. But according to Passan, the session "didn't resolve questions about his short- and long-term arm health." Clevinger was originally experiencing bicep tightness before MRI and X-rays revealed an elbow sprain, the team physician later determined he was suffering from an elbow posterior impingement.
Posterior impingement is commonly referred to a "pitcher's elbow" and is a result of overuse and repetitive forced extensions of the elbow. For now, it has not yet been reported that Clevinger has any signs of ligament damage. Clevinger underwent Tommy John surgery, in 2012, while a pitching prospect for the Angels.
Prior to Passan's report, the Padres had been cautiously optimistic that Clevinger would be available to pitch in Game 3 of the NL Wild Card Series against the Cardinals if necessary. He hasn't pitched since Sept. 23, where he was removed from his start after just 12 pitches. With the Padres, Clevinger started three games (2-1) and recorded a 3.00 ERA with 17 strikeouts, three walks and six earned runs in 18 innings pitched.
Along with Clevinger's latest injury news, the Padres are also dealing with the absence of another starter in right-hander Dinelson Lamet. Lamet, 28, left his Friday start with tightness in his right biceps. Lamet played light catch on Saturday, but he has yet to be officially cleared to start in the Padres' first series of the playoffs.
Both Lamet and Clevinger were not included on the Padres' 28-man roster for the Wild Card Series. Instead, the pair of pitchers are listed on the 12-man taxi squad, along with 21-year-old MacKenzie Gore, the Padres top pitching prospect. Because Lamet is still included on the Padres' 40-man postseason roster pool, he could still be an option to pitch in the NL divisional round if he is able to make positive progress in his recovery from the biceps injury. Technically, the same applies for Clevinger, but based on the recent report, it's not promising he will return to the mound.
The injury rotation concerns are a huge hit on the Padres postseason plans. If their rotation was 100 percent healthy, they would be entering the playoffs with this as their rotation:
With so much uncertainty regarding two of the club's top starters, this definitely puts pressure on San Diego's remaining pitching staff to perform. The Padres clinched their first postseason berth since 2006, ending the second-longest playoff drought in the National League. San Diego finished the 2020 regular season in second place behind the NL West champion Dodgers, with the second-best record (37-23) in the NL.
Game 1 of the Padres-Cardinals Wild Card Series is Wednesday. Right-hander Chris Paddack got the nod to face lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim.