Indians hope Clevinger can harness high energy

Right-hander is on team's radar after impressive 2015

Indians hope Clevinger can harness high energy

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In the moments before Mike Clevinger was scheduled to take the mound on Field 4 for a live batting practice session earlier this spring, the young pitching prospect was pacing back and forth. He looked like a caged animal ready to attack when the door swung open.

The scene amused Indians manager Terry Francona.

"He looks like he's ready for Game 7 of the World Series," Francona quipped. "We're trying to kind of rein him in a little bit."

During his time in Major League camp this spring, Clevinger put his high-octane personality on display. In bullpen sessions, the right-hander looked like he was trying to throw his fastball through the catcher. During his delivery, Clevinger's long hair whipped across his shoulders as he uncorked his pitches. He is aggressive and intense, and Cleveland loves it.

As the Indians plan for the season ahead, their rotation at the Major League level is pretty established. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar lead the way. Cody Anderson, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer provide great depth for the back end. At Triple-A Columbus, lefty T.J. House is aiming for a strong comeback campaign. And, there is Clevinger, climbing quickly toward the big leagues.

"I liked what I saw. I hope he comes up and helps us at some point," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "I'm sure at some point we're going to see Clevinger. Hopefully when he comes up, he's able to harness that energy he's got and settle in.

"I know he's going to work on that in Triple-A. Not just going out there and being Rambo every pitch, but going out there [with] good intensity, the intensity he should have, and being able to harness the stuff he has. That was the message when he went down."

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Cleveland acquired a project when it reeled in Clevinger -- a fourth-round pick by the Angels in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- from Los Angeles in exchange for reliever Vinnie Pestano on Aug. 7, 2014. He was still recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and had a delivery that was in need of an overhaul.

Clevinger went to work on the changes the Indians suggested and turned in a breakout showing in 2015. In 27 games for Double-A Akron, the righty posted a 2.73 ERA with 145 strikeouts and 40 walks in 158 innings. He then joined the Triple-A squad for the postseason, during which he won a pair of starts and spun 15 1/3 shutout innings for the Clippers.

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For his performance, Clevinger was recipient of the Indians' 2015 Bob Feller Award, honoring him as the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year.

"He really did a nice job in the offseason, two offseasons ago, applying himself to [the delivery changes]," said Ruben Niebla, the Indians' Minor League pitching coordinator. "I think that the buy-in is most important. Clevinger did an outstanding job of trusting the player development staff. Once we have that partnership with a player, it just makes it a lot easier."

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This spring, Clevinger began to earn the trust of the Major League staff.

"He's fun to watch," Francona said with a smile. "You can see that there's so much in there that's probably rapidly coming out. Yeah, it gets exciting. It's another guy that I think we feel like is going to slot in at some point and help us."

Before that day comes, the Indians want to see the young pitcher channel his intensity and use it to his advantage.

"We love that this is an issue," Callaway said. "We love that, because you can't teach this. But it is little bit of an issue. ... You [need to] harness it a little bit more than he was doing in Spring Training. We don't need 96-mph warmups. We need 96 the whole year."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.