PHOENIX — When Mike Clevinger walked off the field for the final time Wednesday afternoon, he experienced a different-yet-familiar feeling.
This wasn’t the Clevinger of 2021 who never stepped onto a mound. It wasn’t even the Clevinger of April or May from this year, when the Padres right-hander struggled to find any routine or consistency.
This was “Vintage Clev,” as Padres manager Bob Melvin put it.
“It felt nostalgic,” Clevinger said. “It felt good to finally have a feel for everything that I’m doing.”
That was evident as Clevinger carved through the D-backs’ lineup. He tossed six sterling innings — his longest of seven outings this season — and allowed only one hit and one walk in San Diego’s 4-0 win over Arizona in the two-game series finale at Chase Field. Clevinger struck out six and retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.
It was the type of outing the Padres expected to routinely see from Clevinger after they acquired him at the 2020 Trade Deadline. And he’s pitched like this when he’s been healthy — that just hasn’t been often.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery four starts into his San Diego career, Clevinger missed all of ‘21. Early in ‘22, the 31-year-old has already made three trips to the injured list — once in April (right knee sprain), once in May (right triceps strain) and once in June (COVID-19 protocol).
When Clevinger came off the COVID-19 IL earlier this month, he returned with a two-inning relief appearance at Colorado on June 17. In two starts since rejoining the Padres’ six-man rotation — both against the D-backs — he’s allowed one run over 10 innings.
This time out, Clevinger threw 86 pitches, his most since exceeding 90 in each of his first two outings of the year on May 4 and May 10.
“It’s been stop, start, stop, start all year for him. Cut him off after three [innings], 60 pitches, 90 pitches,” Melvin said. “He went out there and looked like a different guy today. He knew he had…