It was an up-and-down season for Garrett Cleavinger in 2021, as he was back-and-forth between the Dodgers and Oklahoma City. A right oblique strain in August ended his season.
The Dodgers acquired the left-handed pitcher in the offseason from the Phillies as part of a three-team deal with the Rays. With a limited number of left-handed options out of the bullpen, the Dodgers were hopeful that he could turn into a reliable arm.
He began the season off the 26-man roster, but was called up April 25 to make his Dodgers debut. A day after throwing a scoreless inning, he was optioned to the alternate site. Just a day later he was back with LA, as he was recalled for the second time in three days.
Cleavinger was placed on the IL with left elbow inflammation on May 18. Prior to that point, he was struggling in his small sample size with LA. In six innings, the lefty had allowed six runs to score on eight hits and issued four walks.
After missing a month, Cleavinger returned to LA in the middle of June. Over his next 14 games, his ERA was a very solid 2.25. However, the eye test showed that he was anything but solid. His FIP was 5.59 and opponents had a .851 OPS against him. In 12 innings of work, Cleavinger allowed five runs to score on 12 hits and issued eight walks. Lots of runners were reaching base against him, he just managed to get out of a lot of jams.
The scoreless innings were nice, but there was almost always traffic on the bases when he was on the mound. Of the 22 games Cleavinger appeared in, there were only three outings in which he didn’t allow a base runner. In 19 of them, he either allowed a hit or issued a free pass.
77 relief pitchers in 2021 threw at least 18 innings with an ERA of 3.00 or below. Cleavinger was last in opponents OPS (.890), last in opponents average (.290), third from last in walk percentage (18.0) and last in FIP (5.89).
On August 8, the Dodgers placed Cleavinger on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. That would turn out to be the end of his season. A month later, he was transferred to the 60-day IL, officially ending his season.
Stats: 2-4, 3.00 ERA, 18 IP, 21 K, 12 BB, 139 ERA+, 5.89 FIP, 1.78 WHIP, 0.1 bWAR, -0.3 fWAR
Game of the year
Cleavinger didn’t have many clean outings on the season. Of the 22 games he pitched, he didn’t allow a hit or walk in only three of them. That’s not ideal considering all but one were either 1.1 innings or less.
So, with a small sample size to choose from, his best outing came on May 11 against the Mariners. He threw a 1-2-3 inning, striking out two.
Cleavinger has 168 days of service time. As of right now, he’s one of nine left-handed pitchers on the Dodgers’ staff.