Mike Clevinger: An Indians Righty on His First MLB Inning

Mike Clevinger was nervous when he made his major-league debut with the Cleveland Indians last Wednesday. As a matter of fact, he was so nervous that he vomited prior to taking the mound. That didn’t prevent him from pitching well. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed just one run through five innings before faltering in the sixth. He wasn’t involved in the decision, but his club did come out on top in a 12-inning affair played in Cincinnati.

A fourth-round pick by the Angels in 2011, Clevinger came to Cleveland in the 2014 deal that sent Vinnie Pestano west. Prior to being called up, the impressively coifed native of Jacksonville, Florida, was 5-0 with a 3.03 ERA at Triple-A Columbus.

Clevinger talked about his debut outing — primarily his emotion-filled first inning of work — when Cleveland visited Boston over the weekend.


Clevinger on his mindset when he took the mound: “I remember trying not to look up. I was trying to just zone in on the catcher. Ever since I got to pro ball, what I’ve heard is, ‘Whenever that time comes, don’t look up. If you do, the moment will get you out of yourself. So all I thought was, ‘Stay within yourself, stay within yourself; don’t overthrow, don’t overthrow.’

“Literally, the game plan was, ‘We’re going to contain your emotions, contain your energy.’ It was, ‘Let’s pitch.’ It was as simple as that.

“I did look up. That’s when your heart kind of stops for a second. That’s where the blur happens and your legs are shaky. But once a hitter stepped in, it was back to game time.”

On the first batter he faced (Zack Cozart): “It was first-pitch fastball, base hit. I really wasn’t (surprised). It was almost like I anticipated them seeing a rookie out there making his debut, and just attacking. In a way, it was a little comical.

“It was kind of a jam shot. He kind pushed it out there, but it wasn’t a good pitch.. It was supposed to be away and I threw it up and in. It wasn’t where I wanted it.”

On the second batter he faced (Billy Hamilton): “We were going to attack him with fastballs and maybe get a hard ground ball, and at least a chance to get a double play. He did hit a ground ball, but we didn’t get him at first. That wasn’t a surprise at all.

“The main goal was to do whatever I could to not let him get on first base. I threw him fastballs and a changeup. My changeup is my go-to secondary, so I felt comfortable with that.”

On the third batter he faced (Joey Votto): “He was my first career punchy. It was fastballs, changeups, and the strikeout pitch was a slider. I want to say the count was 2-2. I threw him some quality pitches and the strikeout was swinging. Billy Hamilton stole second on the pitch, uncontested.

“You have to concentrate on the hitter with a guy like (Votto). Obviously, I’m going to pay attention to Billy Hamilton. I’m going to have a little more focus on my holds and my times to the plate, but when a guy like that gets a good jump, he’s going to take that bag. At the end of the day, it was, ‘be conscious of him — be faster and have better holds — but if he’s going to get his, he’s going to get his.’

“I had a guy on second base with two outs, so I couldn’t be excited about the strikeout. But when I got back to the dugout, they were like ‘That’s a good first K, kid.’ Then I thought about it and was like, ‘Wow. Yeah.’ It kind of sunk in as I sat there.”

On the fourth batter he faced (Brandon Phillips): “I was trying to read his stance. I didn’t have too much time to gather information on it, but with his closed-off stance I wasn’t quite sure how to attack. I ended up getting him with breaking balls. He grounded out on a slider.

“Later, I threw him a right-on-right changeup for my last punch out. It was the last out I got and the only (right-on-right changeup) I threw. Yan (Gomes) put it down and I followed him. Before the game, I told him, ‘I’m going to follow you.’”

On his sixth and final inning: ‘I gave up the single (to Cozart), the bunt single (to Hamilton) and then the two-run double to Votto. Votto capitalized on a mistake. He was ready for that fastball and I didn’t get it in far enough. He got the barrel to it hard.

“I did okay, but I’m not satisfied with going five-and-a-third innings. I expect to give my team more innings than that. What’s important is that we got the win.

“I couldn’t stop watching (after coming out of the game). I had my pom poms in the clubhouse. I was cheering pretty good.”



“In spring training, he was a lot of effort. He was King Kong. He was, ‘I want to throw as hard as I can.’ What I saw (on Wednesday) was a really controlled guy. He was in his legs really good; he was driving pitches. He kept his emotions in check a lot better than I thought he possibly could.

“He was nervous before the game. He felt like he couldn’t feel his legs. But he got over those nerves pretty quick. When he gave up a hit to his first batter, I wondered if that would make him spin, or if it would be, ‘OK, I’m here and I’ve just got to make pitches.’ That’s what he did. He settled in and attacked hitters. I was impressed.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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7 years ago

This is really really good. Please do as many of these as pitchers will agree to.