TAMPA — Clarke Schmidt unofficially won a rotational job more because of what he didn’t do than what he did.
He was not injured. Carlos Rodon did.
But what Schmidt did became the most telling starter in the Yankees camp.
Schmidt, who is presumed to open the season in the rotation, was literally perfect Thursday, when he faced 15 Pirates batters and retired all 15, seven by strikeout.
He came into camp fighting Domingo German for the No. 5 starter.
Two weeks before the opening of the season, they both win because Rodon will run out of time. No one throws better than Schmidt.
“That’s the kind of stuff he’s capable of,” manager Aaron Boone said after Schmidt needed just 50 shots – including 36 strikes – to stop the Pirates in five innings in a 9-6 loss. at Steinbrenner Field. “It was pretty electric.”
Much attention was paid to Schmidt’s cutter, a new weapon he relied on in the Grapefruit League.
But Schmidt often led with his slider and threw a lot of shots against Pittsburgh, which only got one in the air.
Schmidt forced seven strikeouts.
With the cutter in play, the 27-year-old has five distinct pitches to choose from.
“I feel more mature about what works for me, what doesn’t work for me,” Schmidt said after his fourth strong outing in the spring. “Over the years, even last year, I was like, ‘I’m going to rip my slider, rip my lead, hope one of these works for me today.
“Now it’s one of those things where I’m going to feel what works for me.”
He has options, and he also thinks he has a better head on his shoulders.
He said he liked his own body language, pointing out a few throws he didn’t execute perfectly.
Viewers couldn’t tell he didn’t place them well because Schmidt wasn’t outwardly frustrated with himself.
“I felt like in years gone by, [I would] usually think of this field,” said Schmidt, who posted a 3.12 ERA in 57 major league ²/₃ innings last season. “Just being able to move on and kind of be in myself.”
There is no other real rotation candidate behind Schmidt.
If he brings what he showed Thursday into the season, he could make an effort to stay in the rotation even when Rodon returns.
He admitted that he would rather be a starter than a reliever. Growing up, he was always a starter. But he will do what is asked of him.
“I’d rather be in the big leagues,” Schmidt said.