Former Tiger Takes on Closer's Role

Stephen Clyne, the Mets third round pick in the 2007 Draft impressed in his rookie season in Brooklyn during which he held down the closer's role for the Cyclones. Now in his second season, he will be handed the ball in the ninth inning with the responsibility of locking up games for St. Lucie.

"Spring Training was a grind, having to put in all those hours trying to get ready for the season but I enjoyed it. Camp met my expectations, but I worked really hard in the off-season and even though I didn't pitch as well as I wanted to, and had my ups and downs, it definitely got me ready for the season," said Stephen Clyne when describing the rigors of his first experience in Spring Training.

The 23-year-old right-hander did not miss a beat in his first season with the Cyclones where he posted a 1-1 record, 2.05 ERA and eight saves in 20 games. Now he takes his diving sinker and heavy slider to St. Lucie where he hopes to take the next step in his game, but to get there he first had to correct flaws in his delivery he experienced during the off-season and in camp.

"When I got to camp I wanted to work on my delivery every day. I had a few mechanical problems in camp that really took a lot of work to get straightened out. I was flying open with my delivery and leaving the ball up and away. I did a lot of dry runs, staying back and staying closed and it was tough but it really helped me get my form back and I feel real good going into the season so everything is good," Clyne explained.

Ironing out the flaws in his delivery was an important first step so that he could then focus on his location. While Clyne regularly induced groundballs last season, he did struggle at times with his control as he surrendered 19 walks in 26.1 innings pitched with Brooklyn. He knows he cannot repeat those kind of numbers if he is too have success as St. Lucie's closer.

"I worked a lot on the location of pitches during camp. It wasn't so much that any one pitch was off but I just wanted to improve it so that I would be more consistent against higher level hitters."

To further improve his depth and effectiveness, Clyne got to work on his changeup. After not throwing it much since college [where it still was not a featured often], a quality changeup figures to make him even more deceptive if he can mirror the pitch to his two-seam fastball.

"I never really used my changeup in college or last year because I was mainly using my fastball, slider and curveball but in the off-season I found a new grip with my changeup that I liked and I started throwing it for strikes. When I got to camp I fine tuned it more so now it's one of my better pitches and I feel like I'll need it this year."

But as far as his approach is concerned, Clyne feels his rookie season provided him insight as to how to pitch at the professional level. As a former gunslinger in college, he learned under the tutelage of Hector Berrios what it truly means to become a pitcher and attributes much of his success last season to his former pitching coach.

"My pace on the mound last season is definitely something I want to continue," he said. "I had a fast pace in college that really slowed down in Brooklyn which gave me a better baseball view and I picked up so much baseball knowledge from Coach Berrios."

"I've taken that into this season which will allow me to know more situations of the game and really take things pitch by pitch instead of just throwing the ball over the plate."

As for holding down the closer's role, Clyne's temperament is bred for it. Hungry for success and with ice in veins, he simply wants to take the ball with his team in the lead and send his teammates home with a victory every time out. Now, it is about putting it all together at a higher level.

"It's not a numbers game, but I'm going out there to establish myself as a better pitcher and I love being in the closer role. I was a closer at Clemson and in Brooklyn so I know I have to be mentally prepared every night. I'm going to be out there in the 8th and 9th inning and it's on me to wrap up wins for my team and I like being in that situation." Top Stories