Clarke Schmidt introduces a new pitch at training camp

Clarke Schmidt is pitching a new nasty cutter during Yankees 2023 spring training.

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Tampa, Fl. — The Yankees rotation got a big boost on Saturday after pitcher Clarke Schmidt introduced a new version of the fastball to their bullpen arsenal. This is going to play a key role in his push for becoming the team’s fifth starter.

Clarke Schmidt spent the offseason adding the nasty cutter to his pitching arsenal. He hopes that this will help him do better against left-handed batters, no matter what role he ends up in. According to him:

“We added it, and it kind of took off. At first, it was better than they thought… It’s much better now.”

At the end of last season, the Yankees suggested that the pitcher should try out some kind of new pitch. Clarke Schmidt then discussed things in detail with assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel, who told him that a cutter could help him get to the next level, especially against left-handed batters, who have hit .297 with an OPS of .870 against him in the big leagues.

Because Clarke Schmidt’s four-seam fastball already had a lot of cut and spin, the Yankees thought he might find it easy to learn how to throw a cutter.

Clarke Schmidt watched an Instagram video from Trevor Bauer about how to throw a cutter the day after his meeting with Druschel. Schmidt started messing with the grip the next day while playing catch, using that as a starting point. He was surprised at how quickly he got used to it.

The right-hander then started to try it out in bullpens, and the results were good. Clarke Schmidt recorded some videos of his new cutter and asked Gerrit Cole, who has been Schmidt’s mentor and started throwing his own cutter last season, to review. They were also given hope.

The Yankees ace told about Clarke Schmidt’s new cutter:

“He is really good right out of the gate. He just sent me some things, and I told him that he was really mean. Because it smelled bad.”

Clarke Schmidt could use another weapon against people on the left. Last year, it worked well for him to throw curveballs to left-handed batters, who hit just .067 and had a slugging percentage of .067 when they hit against them. Left-handed batters, on the other hand, hit .429 with a slugging percentage of .643 against his four-seam fastball, .375 with a slugging percentage of 1.125 against his slider, .286 with a slugging percentage of .429 against his changeup, and .333 with a slugging percentage of .444 against his sinker.

“The four-seam to the lefties has always underperformed maybe a little bit,” pitching coach Matt Blake spoke. “Everything he’s thrown has gone away or [had] bigger shapes. To throw a hard cutter that can control the upper quadrant and get in on the lefties’ hands, I think that’s gonna be huge for him.”

On Saturday, manager Aaron Boone said that Clarke Schmidt’s new cutter could be a “difference maker.” Last October, the pitcher relied heavily on his slider during two rough relief appearances in the postseason.

On Saturday, the manager told, “With Clarke, he’s got the weapons, he’s got the pitch arsenal, and he’s got the stuff to be a starter; now can he really develop the command, which has continued to improve; Can he continue to improve on that command that would allow him to be a really good starter.”

Clarke Schmidt ready to compete for the fifth starter slot

When Clarke Schmidt threw at his first live batting practice last week at the team’s player development complex, the Yankees used a lot of left-handed bats against him.

“Obviously it’s a new pitch so I’m still kind of, not walking on eggshells with it but you gotta learn it, learn how to throw it,” he said. “But I’ve been excited with the command of it and how comfortable I feel with it already. It’s only going to get better.”

Clarke Schmidt’s chances of getting the fifth starter spot out of camp could also depend on how well he works on his pitch. Domingo German may be the early favorite to replace Frankie Montas, who needs shoulder surgery, but Schmidt plans to fight for the spot.

“If they want to put me somewhere else, whether it would be in the pen like they did last year or that kind of hybrid role like last year, then that’d be the case,” Clarke Schmidt said. “But for me right now, where my headspace is, I’m going to go for that rotation spot.”

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