Clay Holmes trying to make his signature sinker more lethal


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When Clay Holmes came to the Bronx, he brought with him his signature sinker. Now he is ready to make it more lethal, more difficult for batters to hit him.

During the spring training camp, the Yankees pitcher told:

“I knew I could make it move in a way that made it really hard for hitters to hit.” This was true even though the pitch wasn’t always the same. But I had to work very hard at it.”

Clay Holmes’ sinker has always been special even though he didn’t have a smooth sailing in Pittsburgh. During the first half of 2021, His ERA was close to 5.00, and his shaky command hadn’t changed much since he first pitched in the major leagues in 2018. But his signature hard sinker got better after sinker was traded to the Yankees in the middle of 2021.

Gerrit Cole said last June that Clay Holmes’ sinker was “close to, if not the best pitch” in the first half of 2022. He also said, “There’s still a level up there.”

Why Clay Holmes’ sinker failed in summer 2022

However, in July 2022, Clay Holmes couldn’t get his sinker get wins for the Yankees. He played in 41 games and had a 1.31 earned run average, 16 saves, 41.1 innings, and a 4.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Clay Holmes played 21 games in the second half and had a 4.84 earned run average, 4 saves, 22.1 innings, and a 1.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Holmes’s second half wasn’t as good as his All-Star first half because of problems with his back and shoulders. Acknowledging that, the pitcher said,”I’ve had a lot of ups and downs trying to figure it out.”

Holmes hadn’t saved a game in the big leagues until last year. Taking over as closer from the bad Aroldis Chapman took a small toll on him.

“Last year, I learned that not every pitch is the same, and that some pitches require a little more pressure,” Holmes said. “It’s kind of important to learn how to deal with that over a whole season.”

The goal is to keep the arm strength at the same level all season.

Holmes said, “Throwing your sinker when the game is on the line in the ninth inning is very different from throwing other pitches.” “In and of itself, that causes a little more stress.

The righty is the Yankees’ leading candidate for closer in 2023. Clay Holmes, who is from Slocomb, Alabama, is 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 245 pounds. His manager, Aaron Boone, said, “He had a little trouble having that feel and owning his delivery.”

“Now all of a sudden, here comes adversity, here comes some struggles in a high-leverage, pressure role,’’ Boone said. “(He) got popped a little bit, and how do you answer? How do you make the adjustment?”

Clay Holmes returns with his refined sinker

Boone thought Clay Holmes had turned things around by October when he had made five scoreless playoff appearances, but the Yankees were careful about how much he played.

Clay Holmes said he feels great and is ready to play, and Boone said, “He looks really good coming into camp.”

According to MLB Statcast, Clay Holmes used his sinker 80% of the time last season. The other 20% of the time, he used two different types of sliders.

When the Yankees’ season ended, Holmes, who turns 30 on March 27, said, “I took a few more weeks to really give my body a good reset…to kind of recover from the season.”

Clay Holmes said in an Instagram post that pitchLogic, a special baseball that connects to an app, helped him keep his sinker sharp over the offseason. He first tried pitch logic when he was with the Pirates. He said, “It gave you immediate feedback on the metrics of your pitch, which made me want to learn more about my sinker.”

“Just knowing some of the information made me enjoy the game much more. Because it’s a new and fun part of the game.”

The manager has all praise for Holmes

Right-handed Yankees pitcher Frankie Montas will have shoulder surgery, it was said earlier this week. So, at the end of their starting rotation, New York has a big hole to fill. Even though they could trade for someone to fill that spot, SNY’s Andy Martino said on Wednesday night that the Yankees’ plan is to rely on players like Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt who are already on the team.

This leaves the closer position open for Clay Holmes.

Clay Holmes was having a bad stretch during the last summer and manager Boone had to look for other who could save games. But Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton have been gone for a long time. So, Boone has changed the way he looks at things. This is not a dig at Holmes in any way, but it does show that games can be won in innings other than the ninth.

Clay Holmes and his great sinker will be very important in the late stages of games, but not always in the same way that the team had with Chapman or Mariano Rivera.

Most importantly, Clay Holmes has Boone’s trust, even though he had a rough patch last season and was hurt in the back and shoulder. Holmes’s 2022 season ended with eight scoreless innings in the postseason. This showed that he could get back on track after struggling.

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