Clarke Schmidt making strides with lethal transformation of pitching palette

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Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt has been turning heads this spring training with his work in the bullpen. During his sessions, he consistently strives to impress the coaches and analysts observing him from behind the mound.

One particular sign of his success comes from Desi Druschel, the team’s assistant pitching coach and resident “pitch-shape expert” as Clarke Schmidt affectionately calls him. A chuckle from Druschel often follows Clarke Schmidt’s throws, a sound that seems to say, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” – a clear indicator of a well-executed pitch.

Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt has always been known for his ability to spin the ball. His sharp breaking pitches were a key reason he was drafted in the first round with high expectations. In recent seasons, the pitcher has focused on developing his fastball repertoire, adding a cutter to work alongside his effective sinker.

However, during spring training, it’s his changeup that’s generating the most buzz. Clarke Schmidt completely revamped this pitch during the offseason, and the results are evident in his bullpen sessions.

Following a dominant performance on Monday against the Marlins (four scoreless innings, one baserunner allowed in a 3-2 win), Clarke Schmidt revealed the inspiration behind his improved changeup. He adopted a split-fingered grip similar to the one used by Toronto Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman. This new approach is clearly paying dividends, adding another weapon to Schmidt’s arsenal.

“I thought Clarke was great,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He threw a couple really good [changeups] tonight. He really had everything going, filling it up in the zone. It was good to see him have that kind of outing, get four innings in and be really pitch efficient.”

Clarke Schmidt and Jose Trevino at Yankees Spring Training facility in Tampa 2024.
Instagram/ Yankees

Clarke Schmidt credits to offseason grind

Clarke Schmidt mentioned that during the offseason, they were exploring ways to integrate a new changeup, refining the grip. He noted that he reviewed the slow-motion footage of Gausman throwing at Yankee Stadium and observed his grip, which seemed like something he could replicate. After experimenting with it, he found it to be quite effective.

“I was in the offseason and we were trying to see how we can incorporate a new changeup, optimizing the grip,” the pitcher cited. “I went back and watched the slow-motion camera when [Gausman] threw at Yankee Stadium and saw what his grip was. I was like, ‘I feel like I could throw it like that.’ I watched that and then I started fiddling with it. It really played well.”

From the bullpen sessions during the offseason to his second appearance in the Grapefruit League this spring, Clarke Schmidt is thrilled with the appearance of his new pitch and how well it complements his other offerings. The pitch has a splitter-like shape, giving it added velocity and depth.

Clarke Schmidt said that during the game, the combination of location and shape of his pitches was probably the best it had been.

He showcased his revamped changeup in Monday’s win against the Marlins, tossing four scoreless innings and allowing only one baserunner. This pitch, a key focus for Clarke Schmidt during the offseason, played a role in his strong outing.

One notable instance occurred in the top of the second inning, where Clarke Schmidt induced a groundout from Marlins center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. with the changeup. While he primarily relied on other pitches throughout the game (using the changeup only five times out of 44 total pitches), the Yankees pitcher strategically incorporated it more frequently during his second time through the Marlins’ batting order in the fourth inning.

This targeted use of his new weapon highlights Clarke Schmidt’s development as a pitcher. Entering his second season as a full-time starter, he’s actively expanding his pitching arsenal. By incorporating the changeup, he gains the ability to create different sequencing patterns for hitters, potentially keeping them off-balance throughout the game. This strategic flexibility could be instrumental in extending Clarke Schmidt’s outings and maximizing his effectiveness on the mound.

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