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Indians notes: Mike Clevinger flying through rehab at full-go speed

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    Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger delivers to Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer during the first inning of a baseball game in Cleveland, Aug. 30. Clevinger's comeback is speeding along like one of his fastball. Cleveland's starting pitcher has made startling progress from an upper back strain that threatened his season and was expected to sideline him for several months. However, the right-hander, who wasn't expected to be able to pick up a ball for two months, will throw his second bullpen session on Friday



CLEVELAND -- Proceeding with caution isn’t an option with right-hander Mike Clevinger. The good news is the Indians don’t have to.

Clevinger continues to fly through his rehab program for an upper-back strain, throwing a 35-pitch side session from flat ground Thursday at Progressive Field. He is scheduled to throw from the mound for the second time in a bullpen session today after doing the same Tuesday in Chicago.

Clevinger has gone full-go through it all. 

“It’s really hard for him to only go one (relaxed) speed,” manager Terry Francona said of Clevinger, who sustained the injury during his second start, April 7, at Progressive Field against the Blue Jays. “The good news is it doesn’t hurt him when he (goes full-go), which is great news. He’s got aways to go now to get back but my goodness, if you had told me a month ago that he’d be where he is now that’s ... we’re pretty fortunate.”

“I think that’s why they limit my throwing (volume), versus trying to limit my intensity, which helps me,” Clevinger said. “I tried to go out there even (Wednesday), I was trying to like just throw with (senior director of medical services) Lonnie (Soloff) and be easy because we were close and I didn’t want to blow him up. 

“And then next thing you know I’m cutting the ball, sailing it and so I finally just said, ‘Hey Lon, I’m gonna have to like get on it a little bit if we’re gonna play catch.’”

Clevinger, who isn’t eligible to leave the 60-day IL until June 6, wasn’t expected to pick up a baseball for 6-8 weeks after the injury. His quick progression has made it easier to deal with the disappointment of being sidelined.

“I think that’s what helps it out a lot is because now it’s like I was hit with a pretty long timeline and now I know I’ll be back sooner than that,” he said. “So, it’s like kind of the bright side I get to look forward to. 

“An injury like this was not really a causation. It’s not I mean, whether it’s the work that I’m doing or whatever, it’s not really a pinpointed thing. It’s just kind of a freak incident. I want to say -- I don’t know really the statistics – but nine times out of 10, you never really see this happen again to the guys who’ve got it. So, it’s just a stroke of bad luck I guess.”

-- Francona attempted to clarify the mysterious injury situation for outfielder Tyler Naquin, who was placed on the 10-day IL on Saturday, with Oscar Mercado promoted from Triple-A Columbus to fill his roster spot.   

“We originally said calf, and whether it’s calf or hamstring, it’s kind of behind his knee so that’s a little bit ambiguous,” Francona said. “Even by talking to the medical people, they said it really doesn’t matter what you call it, but there was some swelling in there, so he’s probably two weeks from returning to baseball activities.

“Now that’s a very general, but that’s what they told us. So it’s probably a good thing we got him looked at. He’s a tough kid who was probably playing through something he shouldn’t have.”

-- Outfielder Bradley Zimmer (right shoulder rehab) will begin serving as the designated hitter this weekend in extended spring training games in Goodyear, Ariz.   

-- Right-hander Danny Salazar had a setback in his right shoulder rehab but has resumed throwing side sessions in Goodyear. Salazar hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 27, 2017. 

Next in line

Right-hander Adam Plutko will get the next opportunity to fill a spot in Cleveland’s depleted rotation, making his season debut Saturday against the Orioles.

Plutko opened the year on the injured list with a right forearm strain and after rehabbing in Goodyear was activated and made two starts for Columbus -- the last one, a five-inning outing Sunday in which he allowed a run on two hits with four strikeouts.

Plutko made 17 appearances (12 starts) for the Indians last year, posting a 4-5 record and 5.28 ERA.    

Pen pals 

Indians relievers entered Thursday owning a 3.06 ERA, which ranked second in the majors behind Houston (2.84).

“I think they’ve done pretty well,” Francona said. “I mean, we’ve asked them to be patient because it’s been a lot of moving parts. You know, when the phone rings, they pitch. We’ve tried to divvy up the work where nobody is getting overdone.”

Cleveland’s bullpen had issued a major league-low 41 walks and the second-fewest earned runs (43) through Wednesday. 

Roundin’ third

Outfielder Jordan Luplow has been a fixture in the lineup as of late. He entered Thursday batting .314 (11-for-35) with two doubles, four homers, six RBIs and a .714 slugging percentage since being recalled from Columbus on April 28. He had produced a pair of two-homer games over his last six games through Wednesday. ... Friday, 7:10 p.m., STO; WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Rodriguez (1-2, 2.92) vs. Bundy (1-5, 5.31). 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

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