Although the New York Yankees were a preseason favorite in the AL, they have lacked the consistency that they were expected to display. Heading into Sunday’s season finale, they can clinch no higher than the fifth seed in the league, currently with a 33-26 record.
However, if they lose it is possible that Toronto Blue Jays can overtake them for second place in the AL East. The end result would be the team dropping to the eighth seed, having to face a Tampa Bay Rays team in the Wild Card Series that they went 2-8 against in the regular season. Regardless, manager Aaron Boone is still confident in the abilities of the players in the Yankees clubhouse.
“I know when that group gets clicking, we have all the pieces necessary to go out and win and win big,” Boone said.
One of those pieces is rookie Clarke Schmidt.
The great deal of buzz surrounding the prospect was met with a disappointing debut in his first two MLB games coming out of the bullpen. Developed as a starting pitcher, he was out of his element then. Now, he takes the mound Sunday for his first MLB start.
Schmidt addressed the media Saturday expressing his understanding of the importance of the game.
“I’m really excited,” Schmidt said. “I think it’s a great opportunity, definitely for me, but I know there’s a lot of implications going on in this game. It could lead to some seeding and playoff implications so it’s a big game for the team, as well. So, I hope to bring a little fire and a spark, and I try to pitch with some competitiveness and fire to me.”
Sunday is Schmidt’s first start since summer camp, but he has been building his innings at the Alternate Site, and Boone expects him to throw in 65-70 pitch range. Although Schmidt did not get a true in-game experience, he is comfortable with where he is at in his development.
“I think that puts you in a good position as far as head space and knowing that you’re able to get these guys out,” Schmidt said.
He never played above Double-A before this season. In his mind, the Alternate Site was his Triple-A year. He estimates that he threw around 45-50 innings, and he was able to take a lot away from the experience.
An added benefit from the lack of playing in real games is 2020 is the ability to stay fresh. Players at the Alternate Site worked on certain situations, but they were not playing actual games. Therefore, Schmidt was not searching for a higher gear while pitching. As a result, he feels rested and assures that he is ready to go.
Not only does the start hold implications for the Yankees seeding, but it does for Clarke Schmidt, as well. The organization believes in Schmidt’s talent, and a good performance on Sunday could lead to his name being called on in the postseason. Boone spoke about the possibility on Saturday.
“He’s part of our 40 and obviously we think he’s going to be a special pitcher in this league,” Boone said. “…He has all the equipment to be really good especially at this point in his career.”
Schmidt shares in the organization’s belief in in his abilities.
He remains focused on Sunday’s start and putting the team in a good position to win. However, he knows that he can help the team in the postseason. A potential postseason roster spot has crossed his mind.
“If you have any type of competitive nature, that’s going to be on your mind,” Schmidt said. “I know that I can help this team, whether that’s out of the bullpen or starting. I know that I have the ability to get outs, and important outs at that.”
There is a lot on the line for the Yankees and Clarke Schmidt in Sunday’s season finale. 2020 has been filled with inconsistency for the team, but a win can secure them the fifth seed and maybe prove they have another young arm to utilize in a big spot.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images