The White Sox addressed one of their top areas of need, signing free agent right-hander Mike Clevinger, a source confirmed. Terms are not yet known for the deal, which is pending a physical and has not been announced.
Clevinger joins an all-righty starting unit that includes Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito. Johnny Cueto, one of the team’s top starters in 2022, is a free agent.
Clevinger, who underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2020 season and did not pitch in 2021, posted a 4.33 ERA over 1141/3 innings in 2022. In his final regular season start, he beat the Sox with six innings of three-hit, one-run ball on Oct. 1. But in two playoff starts, he lasted a total of 22/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs. A right knee sprain suffered in spring training sidelined him for the first month of the season, and he was also sidelined in May with a right triceps strain.
Clevinger, who turns 32 on Dec. 21, posted a 2.96 ERA from 2017-20 with the Cleveland Indians and Padres. During that span, Clevinger was among baseball’s top starters, owning a 28.3% strikeout rate, 40.2% groundball rate and 9.1% walk rate.
The Padres acquired Clevinger from Cleveland in a nine-player trade on Aug. 31 of 2020. In his final regular season start, he was diagnosed with a right posterior elbow impingement, and he worked just one inning during the postseason before undergoing Tommy John surgery in November.
In 2020, Clevinger and Cleveland teammate Zach Plesac were placed on the restricted list by their team after breaking team rules and Major League Baseball protocols by leaving their hotel in Chicago and risking exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
“This one kind of hurts,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said at the time.
Clevinger apologized for putting teammates, staff, opponents and umpires “at risk” by going out after a victory over the Sox.
“There is no excuse for my actions, and I can only take responsibility and learn from my mistakes,” Clevinger said in a statement. “Moving forward, I promise my actions will reflect a full understanding of the protocols set in place while I continue my passion for competing for the incredible Indians’ fans and the city that I adore.”
The signing is the Sox’ first move of the offseason. They also need to address their outfield and second base as they look to improve on their 81-81 finish in 2022.
The Sox are familiar with Clevinger from his AL Central Division time in Cleveland. He faced the Sox 11 times, including nine starts, posting a crisp 2.15 ERA. Clevinger has fared well against the division — he’s 9-0 with a 1.98 ERA lifetime against the Royals, 8-2 with a 1.74 ERA against the Tigers and 4-4 with a 3.13 ERA against the Twins.