Clarke weathered storm on way to D-backs
PHOENIX -- For a brief period of time, nothing was going right in the baseball career of D-backs third-round pick Taylor Clarke.
The right-handed pitcher had just undergone Tommy John surgery in January 2013 before his freshman season at Towson University. Then, two months later during his rehab for the injury, he found out the school was possibly going to be cutting its baseball program.
"It was definitely like a roller coaster of emotions," Clarke said in a phone interview on Tuesday, hours after he was selected by the D-backs. "To have the team be on the chopping block and to have to get surgery, then you sit out and watch them play their potential last year, it was tough but I just tried to stay level-headed through the whole thing and tried to control what I could control."
Clarke went on to have success after transferring to the College of Charleston, enough to be drafted with the first pick on Day 2 of the MLB Draft, No. 76 overall.
"It was a little different last night, just sitting around waiting for a phone call, there was stuff going on and it just kind of fell through," Clarke said. "Then, today it was just nice to be the first one picked."
When Clarke found out Towson was potentially dropping the baseball program, which was eventually saved, he thought it would be in his best interest to explore other options, as the team's players were given permission to freely transfer. The first school he visited was College of Charleston, and immediately he knew that was where he should continue his career.
In two years for the Cougars, the Ashburn, Va., native was one of the team's best pitchers. He was 10-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 2014. Then this season, he was even better, going 13-1 with a 1.73 ERA in being named the CAA Pitcher of the Year and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Clarke became the highest-drafted player to come from the College of Charleston, topping Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who was drafted No. 109 overall in 2005.
The right-hander said his fastball typically sits around 90-94 mph, but he can hit 95.
"I just feel like I have a tough mentality out there, just trying to go out there and get ahead of batters and establish my fastball," Clarke said. "Just getting ahead and moving my fastball around the zone, that's always been my biggest thing."
Clarke was the first of four straight collegiate right-handed pitchers who the D-backs selected to begin the second day.
"He was a guy who we were very, very, very pleased to get there," D-backs scouting director Deric Ladnier said, comparing Clarke to Nationals starter Doug Fister. "He's a very intelligent pitcher, he knows exactly what he wants to do, really advanced."