Former LHS pitcher Garrett Cleavinger added to 40-man roster by Phillies

Lawrence High's Garrett Cleavinger celebrates after striking out a batter for the third out of the sixth inning during Lawrence High's 1-0 loss to Blue Valley West in a first-round Class 6A state tournament game Friday, May 25, 2012, at Hoglund Ballpark.

Garrett Cleavinger got the call around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The former Lawrence High pitcher was informed that he had been officially added to the Philadelphia Phillies’ 40-man roster. It was a move that came on the deadline to protect minor league players from exposure to the Rule 5 draft.

In simple terms, it meant that the Phillies consider Cleavinger a part of their future plans.

“It meant a lot that the team thinks that much of you,” Cleavinger said. “They have a lot of stock in you. All of the hard work you put in throughout the year, it is a good feeling to get something like that out of it.”

Cleavinger, who graduated from LHS in 2012, has yet to make it to the Triple-A level in his minor league career. The 25-year-old lefty reliever has a 4.08 ERA in 140 games in his pro career.

But last week’s move to the 40-man roster means that he will get a chance to compete in Spring Training for the first time in his career. Philadelphia’s Spring Training slate will open on Feb. 22, against the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater, Fla.

“It is very exciting,” Cleavinger said. “You get to be around all the big-league players. You go in there with the opportunity to win the job. That’s the mindset you take into it, especially with us having a new manager and a pitching coach.”

Cleavinger has had to go through a lot to get to this moment in his career.

Since being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Cleavinger has played for six different teams at the minor league level. He was even traded to the Phillies in 2017.

Cleavinger suffered a leg injury in 2018, a year where he only recorded a total of 13 1/3 innings.

“I had to do the rehab part for a whole year, which was pretty tough,” Cleavinger said. “In the end, it made me a better player. I got to take a step back and reevaluate some things about how I pitch. In the long run, I think it really helped me out.

Cleavinger came back better than ever in 2019, hitting his stride in the second half of the season. Cleavinger struck out 48 of the 118 batters he faced with Double-A Reading from July 1 through the end of the season.

For the year, Cleavinger posted a 3.66 ERA over 51 2/3 total innings on the mound. He allowed opposing teams to post a .172 batting average. He finished with 83 strikeouts to go along with 34 walks.

“He hit his stride midway through the year,” Phillies director of player development Josh Bonifay told Matt Gelb of The Athletic. “He was the most dominant reliever from the middle of June all the way through August. His fastball was just filthy. It was up to 97. He just wiped out people with the slider. They didn’t have much of a chance. His walks went down. He just got a ton of swing and miss.”

It remains to be seen if Cleavinger can carry that over into 2020, and perhaps eventually earn a spot in the big-league bullpen.

For now, Cleavinger will spend his offseason just as he always does. Cleavinger will start throwing again this week, and he will continue to train with Evolution Athletics in Lawrence until he has to report to Spring Training in February.

“The highlight of the offseason is coming home and being around friends and family,” Cleavinger said. “I had a great number of people reach out to me on Wednesday and Thursday with congratulations. That was a great feeling to know those people were watching and to hear from them.”


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