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Will he pitch in wild card? Padres’ Mike Clevinger dealing with elbow impingement

Mike Clevinger works against a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning on Sept. 8.
(Associated Press)

Mike Clevinger got a cortisone injection Friday that the Padres hope will allow the right-hander to pitch in the postseason.

“We have not ruled out anything for next week and the first round of the playoffs,” Padres General Manager A.J. Preller said.

Clevinger is expected to be able to play catch Sunday or Monday.

“Hopefully, the injection does the trick,” Preller said. “Listening to the doctors, listening to our training staff, they’re not ruling out him pitching in games as soon as next week. Were going to see how it plays out … We’ll really just go day to day. Ultimately, each day we’ll see how he feels.”

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The Padres have until 10 a.m. Wednesday to set their roster for the Wild Card Series, which begins that day.

“We’ll see how the next few days go,” Preller said. “… We’ll make a decision when he have to set the roster whether he’s on it or whether he’s looking like he is coming back for the second series.”

Clevinger, who was acquired in an Aug. 31 trade with Cleveland, left his start Wednesday against the Angels after one inning.

He underwent X-rays and an MRI Wednesday and did not travel with the team to San Francisco. Due to MLB’s COVID-19 protocols, he flew via private plane to Dallas to be examined by elbow specialist Dr. Keith Meister and receive the injection to relieve pain and inflammation.

The diagnosis of a right elbow posterior impingement means there is inflammation and possible fluid on the back side of the elbow. That is the opposite side from the UCL, which is the ligament that, when it tears significantly enough, must be repaired with Tommy John surgery.

Clevinger had Tommy John surgery in 2012. He returned to be one of the most effective pitchers in the major leagues over the past four seasons.

The Padres sent the Indians three major leaguers and three of their top 11 prospects for Clevinger, outfielder Greg Allen and a player to be named later. Their intention was Clevinger would be placed at the front of the rotation, including likely making the start in the organization’s first playoff game in 14 years.

Dr. Brian Schulz, an orthopedic surgeon with Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute and an Angels teams physician said “if the shot works” it is possible Clevinger can make a start and be at full strength in the opening round. Whether the shot took, which it does not always do, will be known when Clevinger plays catch.

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“As soon as he throws, he’ll know what he’s feeling,” Schulz said. “They won’t know for sure until he is in the game. It’s hard to mimic game, even in a bullpen. But if he doesn’t feel anything when he throws, that’s a good sign.”

Clevinger retired the Angels in order in the first inning before alerting the Padres to discomfort in his arm that the team termed a recurrence of the bicep tightness that had caused the start to be pushed back three days.

Some people within the organization initially said Clevinger had an elbow injury after he departed Wednesday’s game. Other said it appeared Clevinger had bicep tendinitis. Sources said Thursday that the preliminary diagnosis after Clevinger had imaging done was a sprained elbow. It was explained by those people and medical experts that the symptoms of the injuries can manifest similarly.

“It got more localized early in that Angels start,” Preller said Friday. “All the tests and on-the-table exam kept coming back to that one spot. A week ago, pretty similar spot. When got through the last day or so, they were able to pinpoint it to one spot, Mike was. He kept coming back to that … spot on the top part of the elbow that was bothering him.”

Updates

6:45 p.m. Sept. 25, 2020: This story was updated with input from orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Schulz.


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