© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly two months after being sidelined with a strained back muscle, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger appears ready to take the biggest step in his return.

According to MLB.com’s Mandy Bell, Clevinger will pitch in a simulated game on Saturday and then will be cleared to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus if everything goes well.

Diagnosed with an upper back strain of the right Teres major muscle in early April, Clevinger’s absence in Cleveland’s rotation was felt for a long time. Cleveland’s rotation ranks 17th in the majors with a 4.43 ERA this season just a year after the club posted the third-best ERA (3.39) in MLB.

While Clevinger is eligible to be activated on June 7, he’ll likely need multiple rehab appearances in Triple-A to work back up to the point he can throw 90-plus pitches in a start.

When Clevinger returns to the mound in Cleveland, he’ll be welcomed back by a 12-inning scoreless streak from his first two starts this season. The 28-year-old is more than capable of carrying Cleveland’s rotation, which the team desperately needs to stay alive in the division.

Matt Johnson
Writer at Sportsnaut. Journalism student at San Diego State University. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection