The Yankees traveled to Pittsburgh this past weekend, and MLB.com’s Jake Crouse caught up with reliever Clay Holmes, who came up in the Pirates’ system and notched saves in the first two games of this weekend series vs. the Bucs.
MLB.com: How do you feel you are a different pitcher now than you were with the Pirates?
Holmes: A lot of the same arsenal, but I think one of the biggest things that’s probably improved over the last few years is fastball command. I think I had already begun to figure out what my best sinker looked like and really started to get comfortable with the grip and with some of my mechanics. Knowing what that best sinker looked like, some comfort came with that, and I think my command has really started to improve.
Obviously, I throw a little different slider now. I banged the curveball, and I’m throwing the sweeper. A little different arsenal, the sweeper just complements the sinker a little better with horizontal movement, but I think the biggest thing is probably fastball command. Even when I was in Pittsburgh, when I was in good count, typically I had good results. I think that’s the same now: When I’m in good counts, good things happen. I feel like I just find myself in better counts more often.
MLB.com: You mentioned figuring out what your best sinker looks like and changing your breaking ball. The Yankees have invested a lot of resources into pitching technology, most notably the “Gas Station” in Tampa. How have those tools and the coaching staff helped you reach the next level?
Holmes: They just have a really good system and structure in place that enables you to know exactly what you’re doing, where you stand as far as the pitch design stuff. Really anything you can think of is available to you. If you have any type of desire or you’re curious about learning, you can dive as deep as you want here. I think they do a good job of not only making it accessible, but there are some really good guys here who know how to find the things to run with and specific things to look for, and I think it’s a testament to not just one guy here with the Yankees but the system and structure they’ve put in place to develop pitchers.
MLB.com: When the Pirates left you off the 40-man roster to begin the 2021 season, how much did that motivate you to become the best version of yourself?
Holmes: It definitely did. Yeah. I mean 2020 was a tough year for a lot of reasons. Obviously, I got hurt there in spring with the [fractured right] foot. Things were shut down with COVID. Things as a whole were a struggle for a lot of people. Then I come back, and I think the first or second game, I had the flexor strain. So it was just a tough year, and it kind of made me reflect and realize exactly where I was. I knew I was going to have to be, for one, a more available pitcher and more healthy, to really be the best version of myself.
There was a little sense of urgency during that time, especially that offseason after I got hurt. I really had to figure out who I was and what the best version of myself looked like and how to get there. I was able to come into spring and have a good spring and make the team there. And it definitely was rewarding, just because I knew I had to put a lot of work into that offseason, and I was able to do it.