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Yanks' Clarkin sharp in return from injury

After missing whole season, lefty throws four innings and allows one run in AFL action

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Finally healthy and back on the mound, Yankees prospect Ian Clarkin made the most of his Arizona Fall League debut on Monday afternoon.

Although the Yankees prospect and the Surprise Saguaros came up short and suffered a 2-1 road loss to the Salt River Rafters, Clarkin's outing was impressive.

"I thought I pitched pretty well," the Yankees' No. 7 prospect said. "It's really good for me to have a starting point to make adjustments into my next start. My defense behind me played phenomenal. They did a great job getting me out of innings."

Clarkin went 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 games -- 16 starts -- in the 2014 season, but missed the entire 2015 season because of an elbow injury. He was consistently clocked in the low-90s and threw a total of 64 pitches, 37 of which were strikes.

Monday's outing was his first game action since the conclusion of 2014, and while he wasn't perfect, he was happy to be back on the mound.

"It felt great. It was hard for them to take me out of today's game," Clarkin said. "Obviously when they tell me I'm done, I'm done, but I wanted to go back out there."

The left-hander gave up one run on four hits in four innings of work.

"I think he threw the ball well, worked ahead in the count," pitching coach Jose Rosado said. "It's fun to watch a lefty so young in this league. It's fun, especially when he's able to work ahead in the count."

Clarkin was able to get ahead in the count often, but also walked three -- a fact he wasn't pleased with after the game.

However, when Clarkin lost his control he was able to battle back. The left-hander induced a 6-4-3 double play to escape a bases-loaded jam in the second and forced a 4-6-3 double play to erase a leadoff single in the fourth.

"That's why he's here, to be able to learn those situations and slow the game down," Rosado said. "I thought he did a great job and was able to really slow the game down when he needed to. It's fun to watch a guy that is 20 years old be able to do the things that he does."

Clarkin wasn't the only Yankee farmhand to have a strong outing, as Chaz Hebert followed it up with a strong two innings of his own.

Hebert, a 27th-round pick in 2011, struck out four and allowed one unearned run on one hit.

"This is a guy that's been a starter, first time this year that he's been out of the bullpen," Rosado said. "First inning he was a little off, but in the second he bounced back and made good pitches."

Despite the strong pitching performances, Salt River was able to generate enough offense to win the game.

Dominic Smith, who is off to a blistering start and hitting .750 (6-for-8) in the Arizona Fall League, went 3-for-3 and provided the Rafters first run with an RBI single in the third. Smith also singled to right in the fifth, when a throwing error from Milwaukee's Brett Phillips allowed the second run to come across.

Now that he's back on the mound, Clarkin's sole focus is on pitching. After a strong start Monday, he's hoping for more in his next outing.

"All I'm worried about is going out and dominating," Clarkin said. "I have a lot more left in the tank. I'm happy that I have a starting point, but I can do a lot more. I expect a lot more."

William Boor is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.
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