Schmidt's adjustments pay off after tipping pitches

May 22nd, 2024

NEW YORK -- had won three consecutive starts and was coming off the most brilliant performance of his young career, an eight-inning gem against the Twins last Thursday. Yet as he stood on the Yankee Stadium mound on Tuesday evening, the right-hander looked up with shock at a rapidly growing pitch count.

The Mariners seemed ready to pounce all night, beginning with the first of Dylan Moore’s two homers, which helped send Schmidt to an early exit in the Yankees’ 6-3 loss. With a few hours to mull the situation, Schmidt said that he suspects there’s a reason why Seattle was on the attack.

“Since you brought it up, when you go back and look at the video, I think there was a little bit of relaying the signs at second,” Schmidt said.

When Moore’s third-inning homer ended Schmidt’s career-best 17 2/3-inning scoreless streak, the runner at second base was Josh Rojas, who had reached on a one-out double.

Schmidt said that Rojas may have been able to identify his pitch selection through his glove, just before Moore sent a 93.1 cutter on the outside corner into the left-field seats.

“It was a quality pitch, for sure,” Schmidt said. “Tipping is a part of this game, and it’s always in the back of our heads. It’s something that we’re well aware of. I think [Rojas] was definitely probably relaying some signs there at second. Obviously, it paid off for them.”

Schmidt said he was provided with a video of his tipped pitches after the inning and was able to correct the issue, keeping Seattle off the scoreboard for the rest of his outing. It’s not a new development for Schmidt, who said he’ll continue working to mask his pitches for his next start.

“Overall, I think the outing went well, but it’s a small factor that can really change an outing,” Schmidt said. “I’m definitely going to make adjustments and be learning from it.”

While an accusation of “stealing signs” would seem to have a negative connotation, Schmidt made it clear that he considers picking up pitch-tipping (at least, the non-electronic version of such a practice) to be fair game, a tradition as old as the sport itself.

“100 percent,” Schmidt said. “If I’m giving away the pitches, then it’s a credit to them to be able to find it. Especially a credit to Moore for being able to capitalize on a mistake. So it’s definitely part of the game.”

There were other questions prompted by manager Aaron Boone’s bullpen decisions, especially after Bryan Woo held the Yanks to two hits over six efficient innings.

Victor González tossed a scoreless sixth, but Dennis Santana permitted two runs in the seventh, including Ty France’s solo homer and a Moore RBI single. Gleyber Torres gave the crowd something to cheer about in the seventh, mashing a three-run shot to the left-center-field seats for his third homer of the year.

“It feels good, especially in that situation,” Torres said. “At the start of the game, we didn’t do too much at the plate with Woo. We didn’t make the adjustments really well. Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll attack earlier.”

The call that Boone would exit the stadium second-guessing came in the eighth, when he summoned left-hander Clayton Andrews to make his Yankees debut.

Though Andrews had a 6.60 ERA in 15 innings with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he’d been tough on lefties, limiting them to a .091 batting average with 14 strikeouts.

As Boone put it, that created a “lane” that he liked for Andrews, beginning with the left-handed Luke Raley, while moving switch-hitter Cal Raleigh to his right side. But Raley went against the numbers by slugging Andrews’ first pitch over the right-field wall. Andrews was optioned to Triple-A after the game, with Tommy Kahnle set to return from rehab on Wednesday.

Yet Boone was still thinking about his choices when he arrived at the podium for his postgame press conference. With Nick Burdi set for the ninth inning after Clay Holmes’ heavy workload in Monday’s blown save, Boone said that he alternately could have used left-hander Caleb Ferguson instead of Andrews.

The timing of Torres’ two-out homer, however, would have made it difficult to get Ferguson ready so quickly after a four-run deficit was reduced to one run.

“The case there is to bring in Fergie there, which in hindsight, I probably should have done,” Boone said.