A Cutter for Clevinger

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Ryan Boyer
·8 min read
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Mike Clevinger wasn’t happy with last week’s outing against the Twins. So what did he decide to work on in between starts?

A new pitch, apparently.

Clevinger unveiled what appeared to be a cutter on Wednesday against the Reds. The pitch helped him hold Cincinnati scoreless over 5 2/3 innings in the Indians’ 2-0 victory.

Baseball Savant had Clevinger throwing 42 sliders Tuesday. However, a bunch of those pitches registered at nearly 90 mph, which is almost 10 mph harder than the right-hander typically throws his slider.

Clevinger was initially cagey when asked about his new pitch after the game, saying he was “keeping that cat in the bag as long as possible.” However, he then relented somewhat.

“It kind of has a mind of its own, that pitch by itself. But it’s definitely a fun one to throw,” Clevinger said. “I mean, it’s low-key kind of get-of-jail-free card when you got some good secondary stuff. So watching it with every single starter having one besides me was kind of telltale that maybe I needed to work on something I think between starts. That was the first go-round, so it should get better from here.”

Clevinger with a new offering -- if he’s able to harness it -- is a scary proposition. He did walk five batters for the second straight start Wednesday, so his control obviously needs some fine-tuning. Clevinger has admitted that his mechanics haven’t been up to snuff because he felt like he was trying to protect his surgically-repaired left knee.

Clevinger’s next start is slated to come against a Cubs team that’s won six straight. It will be interesting to see if he and his new pitch can take another step forward.

No More Klosing for Kim

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt surprised everyone when said before the season that Kwang-Hyun Kim would be the team’s closer. As it turns out, it’s a role he didn’t have for long.

Kim will now be plugged into the Cards’ rotation, taking the spot vacated by Carlos Martinez (undisclosed).

“Clearly we’re short another guy,” Shildt said. “But [we] have another opportunity in the starting rotation and [can] take advantage of the pause we’ve had and get him back into the rotation and be able to help stabilize it.”

Kim was used almost exclusively as a starter in Korea and was stretched out to compete for a rotation spot in spring training and summer camp, too. His final season in the SK Wyverns’ rotation last year was an impressive one, as he put up a 2.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 180/38 K/BB ratio across 190 1/3 innings. He tossed nine scoreless frames during spring training, boasting a 14/1 K/BB ratio.

St. Louis has not said when Kim’s first major league season will happen, but he would seem to be lined up to face the weak-hitting Pirates next week. The left-hander wouldn’t be a bad streaming option even though he’s not fully stretched out.

With Kim sliding into the rotation, that opens up a hole at the back-end of the Cardinals’ bullpen. Shildt indicated Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to name a closer for the time being.

“(Ryan Helsley) has been good, (Andrew Miller) has been good, (Tyler Webb) has been good, (Giovanny Gallegos) was effective his time out and has experience,” Shildt said. “I think you look at being able to match up towards the end of the games that make the most sense to bring it home.”

Helsley was first mentioned as a possibility at closer last month by president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. It seems like it could be telling that he was also the first name brought up by Shildt. The 26-year-old seems like the best bet to get the first crack at the job.

The Cardinals are set to resume play on Friday at home against the Cubs.

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Ozzie Out

The Braves finally decided that taking a half-measure with Ozzie Albies’ wrist injury wasn’t going to work. The tipping point was when the switch-hitter stopped switch-hitting.

Albies sore right wrist was more troublesome while he batted right-handed, and it got bad enough Tuesday that he hit lefty against Blue Jays southpaw Anthony Kay. The second baseman was in a 2-for-21 rut at the plate before he officially landed on the injured list Wednesday.

Will Albies need more than just the minimum 10 days on the IL? It sounds like a possibility.

“We’ll shut [Albies] down for a week or so from throwing and hitting,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’ll get treatment and all of that stuff. It might take two weeks. Who knows? He might be better in eight days and ready to come back. I don’t have any idea.”

Charlie Culberson got the start at second base in the Braves’ first game without Albies. He and Johan Camargo will see playing time at the keystone while Albies is sidelined, but Mark Bowman of MLB.com believes that Adeiny Hechavarria will be given the “bulk” of the starts.

In addition to losing Albies, the Braves also put Matt Adams (hamstring) on the IL. They did gain a player, though, with Nick Markakis officially being reinstated from the restricted list. Markakis initially opted out of the 2020 season before announcing a week ago that he’d changed his mind.

As for the possibility of Markakis being rusty, Snitker isn’t worried.

“I don’t think the offensive part is going to be a problem for [Markakis],” Snitker said. “I think at 50 years old, you could bring him out of retirement and he’ll hit.”

Markakis is an option to fill the designated hitter role against right-handers that Adams vacated. He could also see time in the outfield, with Marcell Ozuna sliding into the DH spot. It was Ozuna at DH on Wednesday.

American League Quick Hits: Mike Trout went deep two more times Wednesday as the Angels fell to the Mariners. He has homered three times in two games since returning from paternity leave. … Matt Olson went 2-for-3 with two homers and three RBI in a win for the Athletics over the Rangers on Wednesday. … Nick Madrigal was placed on the injured list after being diagnosed with a separated left shoulder. … The Astros are moving Josh James back to the bullpen. … Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday that he doesn't expect Aroldis Chapman (COVID-19) to be activated "anytime soon”. … Michael Brantley (quad) will be back in the Astros' lineup Thursday as their designated hitter. He missed a couple games with a sore quad. … Angels manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday that he expects Shohei Ohtani (forearm) to return to the lineup Thursday. … Kris Bubic surrendered two runs in six innings Wednesday in a loss to the Cubs. He also showed improved velocity from his first start. … Carl Edwards Jr. notched a save for the Mariners on Wednesday. Taylor Williams – who had recorded two of the team’s previous three saves – pitched the eighth inning. … Hyun-Jin Ryu tossed five scoreless frames and struck out eight Wednesday to beat the Braves. … Randy Dobnak shut out the Pirates for six innings Wednesday in the Twins' victory. … Michael Chavis went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer Wednesday as the Red Sox topped the Rays. … Dallas Keuchel allowed just one run over seven innings but took a hard-luck loss against the Brewers on Wednesday. … Rougned Odor (oblique) could be placed on the injured list prior to Thursday's game. Nick Solak has been filling in for the Rangers at second base.

National League Quick Hits: Max Scherzer exited Wednesday start against the Mets with a hamstring injury. He expects to be ready for his next start. … Aaron Nola fanned 12 while pitching six innings of one-run ball Wednesday in the second game of the doubleheader against the Yankees. … Joc Pederson socked a pair of home runs Wednesday as the Dodgers held off the Padres. … Adrian Houser fanned five over seven shutout frames against the White Sox on Wednesday. … Mookie Betts (finger) remained out of the Dodgers' lineup Wednesday and isn’t a sure bet to return Friday. … Yu Darvish limited the Royals to one run over seven innings in a victory Wednesday. … David Peralta homered, tripled, drove in four runs and drew a walk to help the Diamondbacks to a rout of the Astros on Wednesday. … Fernando Tatis Jr. went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, walk and stolen base in a loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday. … Josh Bell was the Pirates offense on Wednesday, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer against the Twins. … Rick Porcello held the Nationals to one run over seven innings in the Mets' victory Wednesday. … J.T. Realmuto slugged a solo home run and reached base four times Wednesday as the Phillies downed the Yankees in the first game of a doubleheader. … Nick Burdi landed on the 45-day IL with a right elbow injury.