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Clevinger’s return to Padres rotation short-lived

ARLINGTON, Texas — San Diego Padres right-hander Mike Clevinger was removed in the second inning of his National League Division Series Game 1 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers after a precipitous drop in velocity appeared to indicate an injury to his pitching arm Tuesday night.

Clevinger, who had thrown only one inning since Sept. 13 and missed the Padres’ wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals because of an elbow injury, was added to the Padres’ roster Tuesday and given the Game 1 start after throwing bullpen sessions without incident.

After Clevinger struggled with control but made it through the first inning without yielding a run, his first pitch in the second inning was a 91 mph fastball — 5 mph off from his top-end velocity early in the game. Following Clevinger’s second pitch of the inning — a 77 mph slider that was 5 mph off his standard velocity for the offering — manager Jayce Tingler and the Padres training staff came to the mound, and Clevinger soon walked to the dugout.

Clevinger, who threw only 24 pitches, said after the 5-1 loss he felt discomfort in his elbow while facing Corey Seager, the game’s second batter, in the first inning. Tingler said Clevinger “tightened up a bit and never loosened back up,” and that the pitcher is being evaluated and is day-to-day.

“Yeah, I’m not giving up and I don’t think anyone on that training staff is either,” Clevinger said.

The Padres acquired the 29-year-old Clevinger at the trade deadline to bolster a rotation that was fronted by right-hander Dinelson Lamet. With Lamet also out of the NLDS due to arm issues, the Padres’ pitching depth will be greatly tested in the best-of-five series, which is scheduled to be played over five days. Reliever Pierce Johnson replaced Clevinger and was followed by Ryan Weathers, a 20-year-old left-hander who was making his major league debut after being drafted seventh overall in the 2018 draft.

Clevinger was removed from his Sept. 23 start against the Los Angeles Angels because of an elbow impingement; and before the wild-card series, sources told ESPN there was significant concern he would miss the entire postseason.

His return seemed to embolden the Padres, who in the wild-card series patched together wins by leaning heavily on their bullpen.

Should San Diego replace Clevinger on its division series roster, he would be ineligible to pitch in the NL Championship Series, as well.

The Padres have two more years of control with Clevinger, who is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season.

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