Clarkin finds his groove with Baby Bombers

Healthy left-hander sharp again, tosses six scoreless innings

Ian Clarkin had a 3.38 ERA and struck out 72 batters in 98 innings with Class A Advanced Tampa in 2016. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | April 14, 2017 11:27 PM ET

If there's one word to describe Ian Clarkin's career thus far, it's frustration.

The 2013 first-round pick has missed significant time since turning pro, including the entire 2015 season due to elbow inflammation. He was in the midst of a bounce-back season in 2016 when he underwent knee surgery.

The Yankees' 21st-ranked prospect is back and thriving, but by his own admission, he's not exactly doing it with a smile on his face.

"All these injuries have made me angry," the San Diego native said. "It's something you've just got to overcome. A lot of players go through this type of thing, but it's led me to playing with a little bit more passion."

Clarkin (2-0) allowed two hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings as Tampa won for the sixth time in seven games, 3-1 over Bradenton on Friday. 

Through his first two starts of the season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, the 22-year-old has surrendered one run on five hits with six walks and 12 strikeouts in 11 innings.


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"I feel really good and I'm already excited for the next start," Clarkin said. "I've got a chip on my shoulder. Obviously none of those injuries make me happy so I have a bit of a different mentality. I just can't afford to get hurt again, plain and simple. To go through this four years in a row, I'm really over it. I'm doing everything in my power to take care of myself." 

The southpaw seemed to get stronger as Friday's game went on. He allowed two singles and a walk in his first three frames while locked in a scoreless duel with Pirates No. 12 prospect Taylor Hearn. Clarkin retired eight in row between the third and sixth, striking out four of five batters at one point.

Given a 1-0 lead heading into the sixth, he issued a pair of walks but escaped after getting Logan Hill to ground out to third base.

"One thing I've been trying to eliminate is deep counts," the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder said. "I got a little frustrated tonight with some of the deep counts I found myself in. I'm trying to get quick outs and the strikeouts will come as I go along, but it does get frustrating going deep and having to waste pitches.

"Early in the game I walked a guy because I was trying to be cute. I started off aggressive and then started throwing away stuff. I went around what I wanted to do. But it's little stuff like that I'm still learning about. I need to be aggressive the entire time."

Clarkin's mound aggressiveness is matched by his desire to stay out of the trainer's room and off the disabled list. 

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"I've always taken baseball seriously," he said. "Every single day I come in and work as hard as I can. The biggest difference for me is on the nutritional side. I'm counting everything I put into my body. I want to be smart about it and see what works and doesn't work.

"As you get older, feeling good every single day gets harder and harder. I look at Tom Brady of the [NFL's New England] Patriots, who is still going strong at 40 years old. I'm just taking all the little things seriously and trying to get better and competing every time I'm out there."

Trey Amburgey hit a two-run homer in the sixth to extend Tampa's lead to 3-0.

Hearn (1-1) allowed three runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and no walks through six innings in the loss.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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