Both infielder Greg Bird and reliever Andrew Bailey saw a lot more of Yankees left-handed pitching prospect Ian Clarkin than we did during the 2015 season.
That was because both Bird and Bailey spent extensive time at the Yankees Complex in Tampa last season, where Clarkin, who battled elbow flare-ups in Spring Training, spent most of his season, making only one Tampa start before being shut down until the Arizona Fall League.
“You like to be in Florida, at your Spring Training facility, in March, not in April, May or June,” said Bailey, who battled back to appearances with the Yankees in 2015 with scars on his right shoulder before recently signing a contract with the Phillies. “I was with Ian a lot of the time.
“He was working hard, taking care of himself and getting better. Like all of us, he just wanted to get back into shape and into competition.”
Bird, who spent a few weeks early in the 2015 season rehabbing a shoulder strain in Tampa, agreed.
“It’s not where you want to be during the season,” said Bird, who went on to pass through Trenton and Scranton to hit .261 (41-for-157) with 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 46 games with the Yankees for an OPS of .871. “Everybody seems to ask about Ian. He was working hard to get back.”
Both Bailey and Bird provided a window into what the rehabilitation environment is like for a player. It’s like any project at work you might not be fond of, but you have to do it.
“Good description,” said Bird with a chuckle.
All the rehab, the day-after-day work for Clarkin, did pay off. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound native of San Diego, who won’t turn 21 until next Valentine’s Day, made six starts for Surprise in the AFL. He was 2-2, 5.84 in 24.2 innings. His control was spotty at times, and he allowed 34 hits and two homers, but, in the scheme of things, the statistics were not important.
What was for the Yankees’ 2013 first-round pick was he was back on the mound.
Clarkin told reporters in Arizona he felt “100 percent” for the first time in quite awhile.
When all is going well, Clarkin produces ground balls like General Mills does cereal. His fastball, from a high release point, sits at 92 mph at best, but it has sink and movement. His curve has a big break and arrives in the 72 mph area. His change is also effective and former Yankees minor-league pitching guru Gil Patterson taught him a cutter.
Due to an ankle injury suffered when he slipped on a baseball at the Yankees Complex in 2013, the only full season for Clarkin was 2014, when he fashioned a 4-3, 3.12 mark at Class-A stops Tampa and Charleston. He had a strikeout/walk ratio of 75-23 in 75 innings in 17 appearances (16 starts).
Prior to the elbow flareups, it was figured Clarkin would reach Trenton by mid-2015. Depending on what he does in Spring Training this time around, he ought to see Arm&Hammer Park fairly quickly in 2016.
Clarkin is the perfect pitcher for Yankee Stadium. He is a ground-ball guy, does not allow an overt amount of hone runs – six in 75 innings in 2014 – and has all the potential to be a home-grown Yankees starter, for the price of a $1,650,100 bonus.
Sure beats paying free-agent prices for starting pitchers.
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