Young Clarke Schmidt finds perfect a mentor in veteran Marcus Stroman

Yankees Clarke Schmidt in action during 2024 spring training.

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This spring training, there’s a new learning opportunity brewing in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Clarke Schmidt, a young pitcher with a promising future, has found himself with a valuable mentor in the recently acquired Marcus Stroman.

The connection wasn’t accidental. With Stroman’s offseason signing, the Yankees’ front office recognized a chance for development. Both pitchers rely heavily on the sinker, a unique element within the current Yankees’ rotation. This shared strength, combined with their strategically placed lockers, hinted at the organization’s plan.

Clarke Schmidt has embraced this opportunity for growth. Heeding the front office’s advice, he’s actively seeking knowledge from the more experienced Stroman during spring training camp. This mentorship could prove to be a strategic move for the Yankees, not only refining Clarke Schmidt’s skills but also potentially adding another dimension to the team’s pitching strategy.

Stroman, on Monday morning at Steinbrenner Field, expressed his enthusiasm for this experience. He described Clarke Schmidt as impressive, noting his eagerness to learn and his evident drive and hunger. Stroman highlighted Clarke’s exceptional pitching abilities, suggesting that it’s just a matter of time before he fully harnesses his talent.

“It’s been awesome,” Stroman said. “Clarke’s amazing. He’s a young kid who’s only wanting to learn. You can tell he has that fire, he has that dog in him, he has that hunger. His stuff is pretty elite. It’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together.”

Clarke Schmidt quickly finds Stroman as his guide

Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt has a history of benefiting from experienced teammates. Last year, during his first full season as a starter, Gerrit Cole proved to be a valuable mentor.

While Clarke Schmidt acknowledges the continued importance of Cole’s guidance, he also recognizes the potential for even more growth. This spring training, he’s actively seeking out another seasoned pitcher – Marcus Stroman, whose pitching style closely mirrors Clarke Schmidt’s own.

Stroman’s recent acquisition by the Yankees presented a unique opportunity. From the start of spring training, Clarke Schmidt has prioritized establishing a rapport with Stroman, who has been more than willing to share his knowledge. This new mentorship, combined with the ongoing lessons from Cole, positions the youngest rotation star for a potential breakout season.

Manager Aaron Boone remarked before Clarke Schmidt’s four scoreless innings in a 3-2 win over the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, stating that it appeared they formed a quick connection. Boone noted that Marcus showed genuine interest from the beginning, observing his bullpen sessions and gaining insight into his pitching repertoire.

Clarke Schmidt is taking steps to improve his pitching arsenal this offseason, focusing on his least effective pitch – the changeup. Last season, hitters had a hefty batting average of .429 against it.

Looking to turn things around, Clarke Schmidt made a key adjustment by converting his changeup into a split-change. This pitch features a sharper break compared to a traditional changeup, potentially making it more deceptive for batters.

Drawing inspiration from within the team, Clarke Schmidt utilized slow-motion camera footage to closely study the grip used by teammate Kevin Gausman when throwing his effective split-change. By analyzing Gausman’s technique and experimenting with replicating it, he has integrated the split-change into his own repertoire.

Clarke Schmidt showcased his progress during a recent Monday night practice session, testing the new pitch five times and expressing satisfaction with the results. This targeted improvement could prove to be a valuable weapon for him, adding another layer of deception to his pitching arsenal.

The pitcher also expressed his thoughts on the performance, stating that the blend of precision and movement exhibited by his pitches was likely the finest he had achieved. Clarke Schmidt elaborated that his changeup had undergone a significant transformation, resembling more of a splitter in terms of its trajectory and velocity. He noted that it provided additional depth and velocity compared to before. Clarke Schmidt further mentioned feeling encouraged by the effectiveness of the pitches during the game, emphasizing the promising shapes they displayed.

“The combination of location and shape was probably the best it’s been,” said the pitcher. “It’s literally a completely new changeup. It’s kind of like a splitter shape, a little harder, a little more depth. I was really encouraged by the shapes tonight.”

Marcus Stroman and Clarke Schmidt: A complementary pitching duo

“Seemed like they hit it off right away,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told. “I know Marcus was real interested from the jump, watching his bullpens and seeing his arsenal a little bit.”

While both Clarke Schmidt and Marcus Stroman share the splitter in their pitching arsenals, their primary weapons differ. Stroman heavily leans on his sinker, which accounted for nearly half (46.4%) of his pitches thrown last season. In contrast, Schmidt’s sinker usage is less frequent, making up roughly a quarter (23.9%) of his pitches.

Their go-to pitches diverge as well. Stroman prefers the movement and deception offered by his slurve and cutter, while Schmidt utilizes the cutter alongside a sweeper.

The Yankees aren’t expecting Clarke Schmidt to completely mirror Stroman’s approach. Instead, they see this mentorship as an opportunity for him to gain valuable insights. Learning when to throw specific pitches based on the situation is a crucial skill, and Stroman’s experience can be a valuable resource for Schmidt.

Last season, Clarke Schmidt navigated the learning curve associated with being a full-time starter, making a career-high 32 starts with a 4.64 ERA. The addition of Stroman as a teammate provides an opportunity for Schmidt to refine his approach and potentially elevate his performance.

Clarke Schmidt mentioned that he’s been able to learn about aspects like mentality, pitch targets, and specific pitch situations from veterans like Stroman. He expressed gratitude for Stroman’s openness and willingness to share knowledge, emphasizing that Gerrit Cole and other veteran teammates have been equally helpful in this regard.

Mutual admiration fuels Yankees’ pitching synergy

Yankees 2024 rotation will have Marcus Stroman, Gerrit Cole, and Carlos Rodon

A strong bond is forming between Yankees pitchers Clarke Schmidt and Marcus Stroman, creating a unique learning environment within the starting rotation.

Even before becoming teammates, Stroman publicly acknowledged Clarke Schmidt’s potential. During his introductory press conference in January, he called him “a guy with a ton of upside who’s got incredible stuff.”

When they finally met, an interesting dynamic emerged. The 28-year-old revealed he used to watch Stroman’s highlight videos while attending the University of South Carolina, leaving the then 33-year-old Stroman feeling a touch of generational difference.

Despite the age gap (now 28 and 33 respectively), both pitchers play crucial roles in the Yankees’ rotation. Their styles offer a counterpoint to the more fly-ball-oriented approach of teammates Cole, Rodon, and Cortes who rely heavily on their four-seam fastballs.

This stylistic contrast has led to a collaborative effort. Clarke Schmidt and Stroman, united by their shared use of the sinker, are working together to refine the nuances of the pitch, potentially adding another weapon to the Yankees’ pitching arsenal.

Stroman mentioned that experienced players who have sustained success in the major leagues for an extended period have valuable insights to offer to younger players. He added that Clarke Schmidt, in particular, is eager to absorb knowledge and improve his game.

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