Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In the top of the fourth inning of Tuesday's Yankees/Red Sox Grapefruit League game, Aaron Boone made a subtle but interesting decision -- he summoned Clarke Schmidt from the bullpen instead of Jonathan Loaisiga.
The earlier you pitch in a spring training game, the better the competition will be. Later on, mostly minor leaguers are taking the at-bats. When a team brings a rookie into a game in the fourth, it usually means that the rookie is getting a long look.
It wasn't until the eighth inning of the same game that Boone called for Loaisiga, who on the surface appears to have a much better chance of making the rotation.
Schmidt, the 24-year-old former first-round pick, has been one of the revelations of Yankees camp.
He has impressed the team with high-end stuff. He has struck out six batters in 5.0 innings, and allowed just one home run (to Boston's Rafael Devers, immediately upon entering in the aforementioned fourth inning Tuesday).
Of the pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the rotation -- that group is headlined by Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia and Michael King -- Schmidt and Garcia have the highest ceilings. It's enough to make a Yankee fan thirsty to have Schmidt on the Opening Day roster.
But while Yankees officials won't outright rule out Schmidt making the team, it's still hard to imagine it happening for two reasons.
First, Schmidt is not yet on the 40-man roster, making it far more complicated to add him. That's a significant issue, though the Yankees could deal with it by placing others on the 60-day injured list.
Second, according to scouts, he still needs more professional innings in order to become polished enough to succeed in the big leagues.
Schmidt underwent Tommy John surgery after the Yankees drafted him in 2017. In 2018, he threw 23 ⅓ innings. Last year, that number rose to 90 ⅔, and he finished in Double-A.
There is a reason most pitchers spend several years in the minor leagues. Most need that development time in order to sharpen command of their fastball and work on refining secondary pitches. Schmidt is no different.
We asked a scout who has seen Schmidt twice this spring if he thought Schmidt was ready for the big leagues.
"I don't think so," the scout said. "Fastball command and usage still a work-in-progress. No question has raw stuff."
That scout recommended that the Yankees give the fifth spot to Garcia or Loaisiga. Loaisiga and King are similar -- more polished than Schmidt, stuff that is "fine," as the scout put it, and more knowledgeable about how to pitch.
Schmidt doesn't seem quite there yet. But his talent and results this spring have at least created a conversation, and given the Yankees reason to hope he can contribute before long.
And, for what's it's worth, Boone did call for him awfully early the other day.