Why Mike Clevinger ‘wanted to be a part of’ White Sox

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Why Clevinger ‘wanted to be a part of’ White Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The grounds crew at Guaranteed Rate Field has a fan in new White Sox starter Mike Clevinger.

“That was one of my favorite mounds in all the big leagues,” said Clevinger, who frequented it as a member of the division-rival Guardians from 2016-20. “I’m excited to get back to it.

“I can’t wait to talk to the grounds crew over there,” he added. “It’s just perfect. Whether it’s the height, the way the slope goes down.”

That’s obviously not the only reason Clevinger, whose one-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox became official Sunday, landed on the South Side.

But it’s also not nothing for a guy who dealt with a knee issue in 2022 after returning to the mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in November 2020.

And for what it’s worth, Clevinger holds a 3.13 ERA in four starts at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Clevinger is the White Sox’ first major offseason roster addition and addresses one of their biggest needs, filling out the rotation after Johnny Cueto became a free agent.

He and the White Sox are well-acquainted. They’ve squared off 11 times, 10 of those matchups coming during Clevinger’s time with Cleveland.

His relationship with pitching coach Ethan Katz goes back close to a decade, to their shared time in the Angels organization. Clevinger was the Angels’ fourth-round pick in 2011, and Katz’ first pro coaching job came in 2013 with the Halos.

“I already had a little bit of a relationship there,” Clevinger said. “I’m familiar with the territory of the AL Central. Familiar with those mounds, the travel. And then it just came down to this roster I felt like had every piece to be a contender and kind of take over this division.

“Things obviously didn’t work out the way everyone wanted last year. I knew this would be a place, out of my options, I wanted to be a part of.”

Clevinger spent the last three seasons with the Padres following an Aug. 2020 trade from Cleveland. The veteran finished 2022 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.198 WHIP in 23 games (22 starts) while dealing with a right knee sprain throughout the season.

He struggled in the postseason, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 2 2/3 innings ahead of his free agency.

“Obviously, it's no secret to anybody I could've hurt my stock with last year,” Clevinger said. “I kind of left a bad taste in everyone's mouth with those playoff appearances. But I don't think everyone is seeing what's going on behind closed doors.

“I'm not here to have a pity party, but that's OK. I didn't want to wait. I wasn't going to wait. The Chicago White Sox came, and they were very interested.”

Clevinger said his arm “held up great” in 2022, and he received a PRP shot after the season for his MCL. He expressed confidence he’ll be back to full strength next season.

He joins a White Sox rotation featuring Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito. He touted the staff's "electric stuff," and said he’s looking forward to picking Cease’s brain regarding the 2022 Cy Young runner-up’s slider.

And while he's joining a new team, there's something familiar about the White Sox.

“I've been on the other side, enemy lines, for so long against the White Sox,” Clevinger said. “We know each other, we have a mutual respect. It felt like we were going to war every weekend against the White Sox.

“I feel like I’ve been playing TA (Tim Anderson) and a lot of these boys. I remember Eloy [Jiménez] coming up as a rookie and watching him develop where you couldn’t just throw him sliders anymore.

“It’s going to be really fun to be part of these guys now.”

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