Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger is looking for a clean slate. It started Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
The Indians pitcher was on the mound for the team for the first time in three weeks, a lot has happened in that time, some of it good for the team, some of it not so good.
For Clevinger, it was the actions of he and fellow pitcher Zach Plesac who started a snowball effect of meetings, conversations, issues with trust and a lot of soul searching of the 30 players in the Tribe’s clubhouse.
Wednesday though it was finally time to (as Francisco Lindor put it) “turn the page,” and start on a path to success that hopefully will lead to a long playoff run.
Clevinger’s first start since August 5th didn’t start so good, allowing a homer three pitches in and two runs in the first two innings, but it ended well - as the Indians rallied for a 6-3 win and a win in the series that puts them a half game back of the Twins in the AL Central.
It seemed obvious to Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. that Clevinger wasn’t his normal self when he took the mound for the 7:10pm first pitch.
But once the Tribe got the lead and Clevinger settled in with six K’s and one walk, it was the normal “Sunshine” the team was use to.
“He was more quiet today, he wanted to make sure he was accepted by the guys,” Alomar said after the win Wednesday night.
“I don’t know if he carried that to the mound the first couple of innings, but after he settled down he was like his normal self.”
After being a little low key at first with the media after the win, Clevinger finally started to open up about his true feelings and how he’s ready to again be accepted by his teammates.
“It was my mistake,” Clevinger said.
“It was my mess up that caused a whirlwind for everybody for a while, and it wasn’t my place to come into the clubhouse and be the same Sunshine (Clevinger’s nickname) and rah-rah. I’m walking on a tightrope right now, as I should be. I’m making sure I contribute and not be a distraction.”
Clevinger was asked point blank about the team meeting and what was said by Indians players to the two pitchers prior to them being shipped off to the team’s alternate site in Lake County.
The 29-year-old respectfully declined to give details about the meeting that at one point was a feature story on ESPN.
“That was a long, long, long discussion, but that’s just something we’ll keep internal,” Clevinger said.
Part of the thing that has become evident was how much time has been spent trying to figure out the best route to take with the two pitchers.
It’s not something that has been lost on the Tribe players, who have mentioned as part of the forgiveness process is just how much time the team has spent since early August talking about and going back and forth on the violation by the two pitchers.
“It’s been time consuming to say the least,” Shane Bieber said.
“But I feel like we’ve managed it well as a team in the clubhouse, as individuals, and at this point, it’s time to move on. We all have a job to do, and that job is to go out and win. And Clev and (Plesac) are some of the best at their job and we need them to win, as well. I think we’re all excited to move on as a team and get that going.”
One player who spoke out Wednesday night and was very much in the corner of the two pitchers being welcomed back was outfielder Greg Allen.
While not only being pressed on the tension in America right now with a number of MLB games being postponed due to racial tensions, Allen also spoke about Clevinger and Plesac being forgiven by the organization.
“We’re all human beings, we are all susceptible to make mistakes, even on our best days we are not perfect,” Allen said.
“We’re going to fall down, we have to get back up, I commend our team, I commend Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac just in this process, I think when we look back on it it’s going to make us stronger.”
Clevinger didn’t have a pitch count on Wednesday, but Alomar and pitching coach Carl Willis thought after six solid innings that the starter had seen enough.
They pulled him and despite the pen allowing a run in the 7th the Indians scored three in the 8th inning to pull out the win following Brad Hand’s 9th save in nine chances in the 9th.
It was much bigger than that for Clevinger, who said his teammates, while being harsh at times over the violation of team rules that both he and Plesac pulled in Chicago, showed just how much of a family the clubhouse is.
“We still stayed in contact. They didn’t just kick me to the curb, but they let me know how they felt. I really understood how much I disappointed them and the staff and everybody around,” Clevinger said.
“The hardest pill to swallow was that I made a really selfish choice.”
The term “breach of trust” was mentioned a number of times in the ESPN article after the team meeting in Detroit.
Now that trust is starting to be repaired, helped out by the apology given by Clevinger, as well as time, which heals all wounds and has started with the Indians clubhouse.
“I understand why they were hurt,” said Clevinger.
“I understand that time was going to be the ultimate factor in the healing process. I have to show that I’m trusted to do the right things away from the field.
“it’s just a matter of just talking back and forth and rekindling some relationships and then figuring how I can make them feel more comfortable with where I’m at.”
Wednesday was the start - now once Plesac comes back we will see if the entire team can all get back on the same page once and for all and make winning baseball again the priority in Cleveland.