San Diego Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger emotional after impressive start in return from Tommy John surgery

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May 4, 2022, 9:39 PM

CLEVELAND -- Mike Clevinger held it together as long as he could.

But after finally getting back on a major league mound following elbow surgery, a lockout, knee sprain and a rainout that had delayed his return for San Diego, Clevinger couldn't control his emotions.

"I wasn't sure I was going to pitch again," Clevinger said Wednesday, his voice cracking as he choked back tears. "So this is big."

Clevinger had an impressive first start since having Tommy John surgery in 2020, and Manny Machado hit a two-run homer, as the Padres edged the Cleveland Guardians 5-4 in the first game of a doubleheader.

Rookie Steven Kwan's RBI single in the 10th inning gave the Guardians a 6-5 win in the nightcap for a split.

In the opener, Machado connected in the third inning off Zach Plesac (1-3), and Austin Nola delivered a go-ahead RBI double in the sixth as the Padres won for the sixth time in seven games -- all on the road.

Steven Wilson (3-0) got the win despite walking two in the fifth, and  Taylor Rogers pitched the ninth for his 10th save.

It was a joyous return for Clevinger, who had surgery not long after pitching in Game 1 of the National League Division Series two years ago -- just months after being traded from Cleveland to San Diego. Facing his former team and Plesac, one of his closest friends, the right-hander allowed three runs and four hits.

Clevinger was just an out away from potentially getting a win before being pulled after 95 pitches by manager Bob Melvin.

The win would have been a bonus, but that hardly mattered to Clevinger, who was thankful for the chance to compete again.

"It's been a super long road and I can't thank the people behind me enough," said Clevinger, standing in the hallway outside San Diego's clubhouse between games.

Clevinger, who spent four-plus seasons with Cleveland before being traded in 2020, was leading 3-1 when he walked Myles Straw with one out in the fifth. He put on José Ramírez with two down before being replaced by Wilson, who gave up a walk and Josh Naylor's tying two-run single.

Clevinger lobbied Melvin to let him finish the inning.

"I really appreciate Bob giving me a chance to go out and get it," Clevinger said, "and was lobbying for it hard, and I'm glad he let me try to go after Josey that one last time. I knew I was going to not let him beat me.

"I was going to try to make him swing outside the zone, and the hitter he is, I wasn't going to let him go ahead and tie the game up there, so I did what I had to do to him and it just didn't go in my favor."

Guardians manager Terry Francona watched Clevinger shut down teams before, so he wasn't surprised by the outing.

"I thought we made him work," Francona said. "We had a couple chances. We had him on the hook, they had someone up early. We weren't able to cash in. His stuff's pretty good. We expected that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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