Clarke keeps climbing up D-backs' ladder

By Steve Gilbert / Special to | January 18, 2018 2:22 PM

Taylor Clarke will get his first taste of the big leagues next month when he joins D-backs pitchers and catchers at Salt River Fields as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.

The right-handed Clarke, who was selected in the third round of the 2015 Draft, has made a steady rise through the Arizona system, topping out at Triple-A Reno in 2017.

The D-backs' No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline began last year at Double-A Jackson, where he finished the 2016 season.

That gave him an extra dose of confidence heading into the season and some comfort of knowing what to expect. Clarke was a Southern League All-Star selection and wound up being promoted to Reno and the Pacific Coast League at the end of July.

"Obviously going from the Southern League to the PCL is a little bit like night and day," Clarke said recently at Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program.

Whereas the Southern League is more pitcher-friendly, the PCL is the opposite, especially at a place such as Reno where the ball tends to travel.

Clarke posted a 4.81 ERA in six starts for Reno, quite a difference from the 2.91 ERA he had at Jackson and the 3.31 ERA he tallied over three stops in 2016. That didn't discourage him, though; it just taught him some valuable lessons.

"You've got to really minimize your mistakes and make quality pitches," Clarke said of being successful in the PCL. "You don't want to shy away from your strengths and try to become someone you're not. I consider myself a little bit more of a fly ball pitcher, try to pitch up in the zone, which kind of doesn't work to my advantage in Reno and out there, but it's one of those things you make a mistake, move on and learn from it."

Clarke, 24, will likely open the 2018 season at Reno, but D-backs general Mike Hazen cited him as a possible rotation contributor later in the year if Arizona has a need and if Clarke is pitching well.

"I don't think that there's anything that I need to do differently," Clarke said of making the next step. "Just be more stay consistent and be the same guy that I've been the last two or three years. Just go out there, play my game and control what I can control and hope it works out."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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