The last time Clarke Schmidt took the hill in Lakeland, he was unhittable over five frames in his Florida State League debut.The fifth-ranked Yankees prospect found a way to outdo himself in his first appearance back Monday.Schmidt turned in a career-long seven innings -- scattering three hits and three walks
The last time Clarke Schmidt took the hill in Lakeland, he was unhittable over five frames in his Florida State League debut.
The fifth-ranked Yankees prospect found a way to outdo himself in his first appearance back Monday.
Schmidt turned in a career-long seven innings -- scattering three hits and three walks -- while tying his professional best of nine punchouts as Class A Advanced Tampa blanked Lakeland, 6-0, at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. The 2017 first-rounder tossed 63 of his career-high 105 pitches for strikes.
Gameday box score
"Some of the guys were laughing about it after the game, saying I really like pitching here," Schmidt said. "I don't know what it is exactly. The mound is really good, I like the stadium -- it's a pretty good atmosphere here. I enjoy the park and it was a lot of fun out there tonight, I just hope I don't have to come here to pitch like that. I want to be able to do that every time out."
The good news for the 23-year-old is he may have tapped into something Monday that he could bring to any ballpark going forward. After deciding to table his slider early in the season, Schmidt reintroduced the pitch into his arsenal last week and it proved to be a difference-maker against the Flying Tigers.
"I can spin different breaking balls. I usually try to start guys off with a curveball early in the count, you know, the kind with the vertical break with more depth to it," he said. "And then later in the count, I can throw one with more of a slurve action, it looks like a slider. So I've been really working on throwing that slider type one for strikes and to be able to get guys to chase it late in the count, and that's what I did tonight. I got a lot of chases late or guys swinging through the breaking ball. It was really effective."
Schmidt (4-4) retired the first six batters in order -- four via the strikeout -- before yielding a leadoff single to Jon Rosoff in the third inning. No Lakeland player made it to third base with the right-hander on the mound. Schmidt got into some trouble in the fourth, when Chad Sedio drew a one-out walk and No. 17 Tigers prospectKody Clemens punched a ground-ball single into left field. The 2017 first round pick escaped the jam by inducing Nick Ames to hit into an inning-ending double play.
"It was just one of those nights where everything was working," he said. "In addition to my breaking balls, my changeup was really sharp and my fastball had a lot of life tonight -- it was jumping for sure."
Schmidt finished his outing by facing two above the minimum -- benefiting from another double play to end the seventh when he could sense some fatigue beginning to set in.
"I was holding my velo well right up to the end there, but because of the pitch count and the length, I could definitely feel my legs getting tired under me," he said. "But it was really good to be able to get to that mark and staying out there that long was good for me too."
The University of South Carolina product lowered his ERA to 2.98 and WHIP to 1.23 over 12 appearances with the Tarpons this season. He has 65 punchouts and 22 walks over 60 1/3 frames. And all that after spending two stints on the injured list this year. He was sidelined from April 30-May 14 and again from May 27-July 11. The latter one included a three-game rehab assignment in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Right-hander Jefry Valdez completed the shutout, working around a hit and striking out one over the final two frames.
New York's second-ranked prospect Estevan Florial mashed a two-run jack to center in the fifth off a first-pitch fastball by right-hander Elvin Rodriguez (9-7) -- Detroit's No. 22 prospect. Wilkerman Garcia added a pair of hits and scored twice.
"We've been on a roll recently. It's been impressive to watch these hitters and what they're able to do," Schmidt said. "I also feel like our defense has been playing up a whole other level in the second half here. I feel like we've just been really gelling together, there's a great atmosphere in the locker room ... and for them to put up runs early really puts me at ease out there. It's been fun to watch."
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24.