Taylor Clarke sported the sedona red today with the Arizona Diamondbacks for his first big-league start.
Recalled from Reno this morning, Clarke was tagged with the loss in a 6-3 contest in Tampa Bay. The right-hander pitched a solid six innings, giving up two earned runs on seven hits with two strikeouts.
Clarke was introduced to the show right away. Rays right fielder Brandon Lowe took him deep to center field on the very first pitch of the game. Clarke shook off the rough start and retired four-in-a-row through the second and third innings.
Arizona, 20-16, has gone 6-5 over its last 11 games and is just 3 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West.
Clarke, 25, made MLB history in his debut on April 20, recording a three-inning save against the Chicago Cubs. Clarke also had a base hit in his first big-league at bat. He became the first pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to record a save and get a hit in an MLB debut. Then he was promptly sent back to Reno.
He is the 10th-ranked prospect in Arizona’s farm system according to MLB.com. Clarke has a 3-1 record and 6.12 ERA with 17 strikeouts in five starts with the Aces this season. His four-pitch mix of includes a mid-90s fastball and a knee-bending curveball that’s effective against right-handed batters.
Although Clarke doesn’t have elite stuff on the mound, he maximizes his pitches well with great command and control.
“He has that look about him that says, ‘No one is going to beat me,’ ” said Aces first-year pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru, who has been with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization nine years as a coach and a player.
“Nothing really jumps out at you, but (Clarke) has four pitches that he throws for strikes and he has plenty of ‘velo’ (velocity).”
Along with Clarke, center fielder Tim Locastro was called back to Arizona on May 3. He has played in 12 games with the Dbacks this season, batting .235 with five runs and two stolen bases.
Locastro, 26, is hitting a blistering .395 with five homers and 12 RBIs with the Aces. He and fellow teammate Kevin Cron each recorded three home runs for the first time in franchise history on April 25.
Cron’s scorching hot start to the year has earned him some praise from the big-league club. The slugging first/third baseman was named Diamondbacks Minor League Player of the Month on Tuesday afternoon.
Cron, 26, hit .352 with 11 round-trippers, 33 RBIs, seven doubles and accumulated a 1.249 OPS in 24 games with Reno. He led the minors in RBIs and was tied for second in home runs.
A 14th round selection out of Texas Christian University, Cron may not be in an Aces uniform for the foreseeable future. His right-handed pop at the plate and improved defense at the hot corner can help a power-deprived Dbacks infield.
The 2017 Pacific Coast League MVP and former Reno Aces first baseman Christian Walker is doing his part. His 14 doubles on the season ranks second in the majors to go along with seven homers and 16 RBIs at a .306 clip.
Former Aces infielder Ildemaro Vargas still remains with the Dbacks. The 2018 PCL All-Star is hitting .213 with a home run and four RBIs in 23 games this season. Vargas’ defensive prowess has found a new home in the desert. The rangy infielder has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage at second base and a .857 percentage at third base.
The Aces return home to Greater Nevada Field on Saturday, May 11 to cap-off an eight-game road trip. Reno split the four-game series with the Sacramento River Cats, Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Following a 6-3 homestand, and two wins against Sacramento, Reno in in fourth place in the PCL Northern Division, but only 3 games behind the first-place River Cats.
Third baseman Wyatt Mathisen hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to propel Reno past the feisty River Cats, 7-6 on May 4.
Mathisen isn’t the only Ace making noise at the hot corner. Marty Herum recorded his first career Triple-A home run in a 12-6 loss to Sacramento on May 6. Herum took a hanging fastball to left-center field in the eighth inning to spark a late Aces comeback that ultimately fell short.
Herum and Mathisen split time at third base when Cron moves to first to compensate for a loaded Aces infield. Domingo Leyba and Kelby Tomlinson are the primary starters at shortstop and second base. But Mathisen has started seven games at second base on the year.
Reno, 13-18, begins a four-game road series with the Tacoma Rainiers, Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners at 6:05 tonight. The Aces have not announced a starting pitcher.
— Isaiah Burrows