Clarke Schmidt’s ‘electric’ stuff fuels RHP’s perfect start to Yankees spring training, bid for spot in rotation

Feb 26, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (86) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports / © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Clarke Schmidt‘s case for a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation could not have begun much better than Sunday’s 7-0 spring training win over the Atlanta Braves.

The RHP started New York’s split-squad matinee at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., with a two-inning flash of dominance that backed up what Aaron Judge has seen since reporting to camp.

“It’s just electric,” the reigning AL MVP and newly-minted captain told YES Network of Schmidt, who threw 20 strikes on 31 pitches and struck out five in two perfect innings. “Besides the movement, besides the command he has with all his pitches … his presence on the mound, he’s a bulldog out there — he’s attacking hitters. It doesn’t matter if it’s two strikes, if he’s down in the count — he’s going after guys, and that’s who you want to play by.

“Especially with this pitch clock now, he gets it moving and he has that type of presence. So, looking forward to seeing him out there.”

The lone Brave to not go down on strikes was Marcell Ozuna, whose 6-3 groundout ended the top of the first inning.

“My main focus, going into it, was, ‘Throw a lot of strikes, fill up the zone,'” Schmidt told YES Network. “My breaking balls felt really good. I was spinning it well.

“I think the cutter’s going to be a big pitch for me this year. … When I’m out there, if I get behind in the count — especially to lefties — I feel a lot more comfortable that I don’t have to dot a pitch here and there. I can throw this over the heart of the plate and get some swing and miss.”

Schmidt, who turned 27 last Monday, enters off a 2022 season in which he experience his most time yet with the Yankees.

In 29 games (three starts) over 57.2 IP, Schmidt went 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA while striking out 56 and walking 23. Schmidt allowed 46 hits (five home runs), hit two batters and earned two saves.

“That’s been motivating me this whole time is like — I want to come out here and I want to fight for a rotation spot, and whatever happens happens,” Schmidt said. “And if they want me back in that kind of swingman bullpen role again, then that’s the case. But for me, I’m coming out here, I’m trying to compete and hopefully win a job.”