Injury-hit Yankees expect wild card Clarke Schmidt, Jhony Brito to turn Giant killers

New York Yankees starters Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito.

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After starting with their reliable ace Gerrit Cole in Game 1, the Yankees are bringing forth their ‘wild card’ Clarke Schmidt to start Game 2 against San Francisco. Gerrit Cole did everything he was supposed to do in the Yankees’ shutout win over the Giants on Opening Day. But there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead after injuries have forced the Yankees to start with Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito in the next two games.

It will be Clarke Schmidt vs. Alex Cobb of San Francisco on Saturday afternoon in The Bronx. The young right-hander will try to show that he should have been in the rotation before Frankie Montas, Carlos Rodon, and Luis Severino, who are all nourishing their injuries.

The Yankees, who are usually very strong and deep, will find out more about the depth of their rotation a lot sooner than they had hoped. Cole was supposed to pass the ball to Rodon, his new $162 million co-ace, after throwing six scoreless innings on Thursday.

Instead, Clarke Schmidt, a 27-year-old pitcher seeking to prove himself in MLB, will take over from him for the Yankees’ second game of their long season.

“I thought he executed this spring really well,” Cole said of Clarke Schmidt, who beat Domingo German to become the fifth starter at the spring camp. “He came in with some uncertainty — is he fighting for a spot or is he not? I thought he approached the first few games just as well as he approached the last game. He focused on trying to throw strikes, trying to build the foundation.”

Clarke Schmidt was great all through camp. He struck out 25 batters in 19 2/3 Grapefruit League innings, helped by his new version of a fastball. But, will a couple of standouts in February and March turn into useful pieces by April?

Clarke Schmidt’s cutter might have been the Yankees’ best pitching discovery of the spring. It adds to a deep, five-pitch arsenal that the team thinks is coming together. The young right-handed pitcher, who was picked in the first round in 2017, has shown promise and had a 3.12 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season.

Clarke Schmidt at Yankee Stadium

But he did most of his work in the big leagues from the bullpen, and he spent a lot of time in Triple-A. Clarke Schmidt, who likes to start, felt like he was in a better position this spring training than in the past, and not just because he was put into the rotation.

“I don’t know if it’s mentally I’m just in a different place or what it is. I just feel very confident in myself and where I’m at,” Clarke Schmidt told when in Tampa. “I’ve always said I’ve been confident, stuff like that, but it’s kind of a different feel when you have … that last year experience. Knowing what it’s like to be up there and knowing how to get guys out. Knowing what my stuff works like.”

Jhony Brito too looks at Clarke Schmidt

Jhony Brito, who is 25 years old and made 15 starts for Triple-A RailRider last year, is the team’s eighth starter. However, injuries have forced the Yankees to make him start their Game 3. He beat out Matt Krook, Deivi Garcia, and Randy Vasquez to get to that position.

The Dominican Republic native was put on the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Last season, Jhony Brito pitched 112 2/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A and had an earned run average of 2.96.

jhony brito
Robert M. Pimpsner

Jhony Brito earned the spot and will pitch in the major leagues for the first time. In 13 Grapefruit League innings, he gave up only three earned runs, which is a 2.08 ERA. His last game, against the Blue Jays on Sunday, was a perfect 5 1/3 innings.

“He’s got our attention all camp,” manager Aaron Boone said Sunday. “He’s earned a strong reputation in player development. He was very at ease doing what he was doing today. That was good to see.”

Fans are waiting to see how far Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito can help the Yankees, who have brought them out earlier than they were expecting.

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