TAMPA, Fla. -- On the first morning when pitchers and catchers reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field, Clarke Schmidt allowed himself a moment to inspect the home clubhouse, absorbing the bold-faced placards on adjacent lockers. The Yankees prospect resolved that he would make the most of this opportunity in Major
TAMPA, Fla. -- On the first morning when pitchers and catchers reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field, Clarke Schmidt allowed himself a moment to inspect the home clubhouse, absorbing the bold-faced placards on adjacent lockers. The Yankees prospect resolved that he would make the most of this opportunity in Major League camp, focusing upon achieving much more.
“The No. 1 goal for me this year is to be in the big leagues,” Schmidt said. “I want to show these guys that I can get significant outs at the Major League level. I've always held myself in very high regard and I've always been a very confident kid. I know that I can go up there and I can help this team, whether it may be a playoff push or whatever it may be. I want to open the eyes that I need to open.”
That would be a significant but not improbable jump for the talented right-hander, who tossed a live batting practice session on Sunday. The Yankees’ No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Schmidt advanced to Double-A Trenton last season, where he went 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three regular season starts. Schmidt then went 1-0 with an 0.84 ERA in two postseason efforts for the Thunder.
“I feel really good about where guys are, and Clarke is definitely one of those guys,” manager Aaron Boone said. “You got a peek today at his ability to fill up the strike zone with really good stuff, really good command and feel for the breaking ball. There’s a presence on the mound, a confidence. He seems to have a really good understanding at a young age of who he is.”
Schmidt, who turns 24 this week, was 4-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) for Class A Advanced Tampa prior to that promotion. It marked the first full season for the University of South Carolina alum, who garnered the Yanks’ first-round selection (16th overall) in the 2017 MLB Draft while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“It was a long season for me,” Schmidt said. “I had some growing pains in the first half. I felt really good in the beginning and then it was just being able to find my routine again. Once I got to the second half, I finally caught stride and stuck to a routine that I was good with. It was just getting that ball rolling down the hill, and I felt so much more comfortable. I felt like I was unstoppable.”
Though he was on an innings limit early in the season, Schmidt achieved his goal of tossing at least 100 innings by helping the Thunder on their drive toward the Eastern League championship, hurling 10 2/3 postseason frames – a scoreless six-inning start on Sept. 4 at Reading and 4 2/3 innings of dominant one-run, nine-strikeout relief on Sept. 12 at Bowie.
“It feeds your hunger to be in that locker room in a playoff-type atmosphere,” Schmidt said. “One of the reasons I went to South Carolina was for the bright lights, the big stadiums and the big crowds in the SEC. That's why another reason why I find being in this locker room and being with these guys is a lot of fun. I like those moments.”
Schmidt is also aiming to take advantage of his off-field opportunities in camp. He recently sat down for lunch with Gerrit Cole and was impressed by the ace’s attention to detail.
“He’s next-level with this stuff,” Schmidt said. “You might go through a particular Minor League team and find five or six guys that are super articulate and detail-oriented. Then you come up here and every single guy is detail-oriented. That's why they're here. Cole knows literally knows every single thing that he wants to do, and so that’s someone I look up to. That’s what I want to do.”
Widely viewed as the front-runner to claim the rotation slot vacated by James Paxton’s injury, Jordan Montgomery threw 35 pitches over two simulated innings on the Steinbrenner Field mound on Sunday, following an impressive 27-pitch performance by Cole. Boone said that the left-hander’s performance was “another one we’re excited about.”
“I thought he really executed well today,” Boone said of Montgomery. “He’s really being intentional on some of the things he's working on, being able to strike his secondary stuff, being able to drive his fastball in on right-handed hitters. I thought today was another good building block for him and another confidence builder as he gets ready to go here.”
Joining the party
The Yankees formally announced the signing of right-hander Chad Bettis to a Minor League contract on Sunday. Bettis, who turns 31 in April, will earn $1.5 million if he makes the Major League roster, plus a possible $2 million in performance bonuses. Boone said that he could see the former Rockies hurler competing for either a rotation or multi-inning bullpen spot.
“He has a track record of having some success,” Boone said. “It’s a difficult place to be a starting pitcher, in Colorado. But we're excited about the potential depth that he provides for us and excited to see what where he's at coming off a (right hip) injury this winter. He's healthy and he’s got a chance to put himself in that mix.”
Yankees position players are scheduled to report to Steinbrenner Field on Monday, while pitchers and catchers will continue to work out. Admission is free for all workouts through March 20. Gates will open to fans at approximately 10 a.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.