The Yankees could be coming into 2021 with a much different starting rotation than what they showcased last season. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ all remain free agents, and while the team may look to fill those spots with free-agent signings of their own (or bring at least one of them back), there’s plenty of internal competition, as well.
And if you ask Clarke Schmidt, he’s ready to make that jump.
“I'm excited to come in to Spring Training and fight for a rotation spot,” Schmidt said on YES Network Tuesday. “That really means a lot to me. I think last year there was extenuating circumstances with the roster size and limitations and stuff like that, and this year's not the case. My confidence is higher than ever just because of the work I'm putting in and the preparation. For me, the confidence lies in the preparation and I've never put this much in before.”
Schmidt made three appearances in 2020 and got his first Major League start against the Marlins on Sept. 27, in which he allowed three runs on four hits in four innings. With COVID-19 canceling the minor league season, he spent the majority of the year at the team’s Alternate Site in Scranton, where he was able to hone in on fine-tuning some aspects of his pitching.
“Working down in the Alternate Site, it was a lot of development,” Schmidt said. “Being with [pitching directors] Sam Briend and Desi [Druschel] and having them watch my bullpens or games, it was way more hands-on. I got a lot of development that you wouldn't typically get in a year. For me, I was working on my four-seam [fastball] profile. I wanted to add a little more ride to my four-seam to complement my two-seam. I wanted to continue to work on the command on my fastball… and I felt like I made a lot of strides in those areas.”
Schmidt finished the season allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched, with seven strikeouts and five walks, but isn’t making too much of 2020’s small sample size.
“If you look at my results last year, I didn't do what I wanted to do,” Schmidt said. “Typically, if you talk to someone, I think they'd say that that would hurt their confidence. But for me, I know that I can get these guys out. I think I learned so much from last year and I'd probably say it even motivated me even more. I'm at a place right now where I'm even hungrier than ever to show what I can do and help these guys win a World Series.”