TigsTown Q&A: Lakeland RHP Tyler Clark

It's no secret that this season's High-A Lakeland team has been loaded with talent. However, in the shadows of their bonus babies and international stars lies a 23-year-old reliever that's quietly making a name for himself.

Tyler Clark--the Tigers' 24th round selection in the 2010 draft has been a key cog in the Flying Tigers bullpen this season. Regardless of the inning he's called upon or role he's given, Clark has delivered and dominated the opposition. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has a 3-0 record along with one save, a sparkling 1.17 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 23 innings. Clark has racked up 29 strikeouts and his opponents are batting just .147 against him this season. The former University of Missouri Tiger has also allowed just four home runs over 93 1/3 career innings.

In short, Clark is the type of prospect that's easy to root for; he works hard. Detroit Tigers fans will quickly learn that and become fans of his blue collar, hard work approach to the game of baseball.

This week Tyler was kind enough to check in with us to answer some questions.

TigsTown: You put together an impressive senior year at Springfield Catholic High School. You finished the season 22-8 with 114 strikeouts and a shiny 1.73 ERA. Were you heavily scouted?

Tyler Clark: I had and continue to have a great support system back home of family, friends, and coaches that always have my best interest at heart. My coaches helped get my name out to college and pro scouts. That was a very fun time in my career getting to choose between schools like Oklahoma, Missouri, and other Big 12 schools.

TigsTown: You were a bit of a beast at the plate too; career .453 average and you went deep 11 times. Are any of the other Flying Tigers pitchers giving you a run for the money at the plate?

Clark: [laughs] Well, I definitely miss it. I think with a little practice I could get back into my old form. If pitching did not work out I think it would be fun to see what I could do as a catcher, second-baseman, or outfielder. As far as other pitchers on the team, I am pretty sure Bruce Rondon would destroy all of us and some of the position players too.

TigsTown: You were selected in the later rounds of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs. Was it a difficult decision to turn them down and honor your college commitment?

Clark: It was an honor and very exciting to have been drafted out of high school but I knew I had some more maturing to do and wanted to start working towards my college degree. I am very glad I chose Mizzou.

TigsTown: That being said, how did your time at Mizzou and the competition of the Big 12 help prepare you for professional baseball?

Clark: The Big 12 and the SEC are the best in the country in my opinion and it was great getting to face the top competition every weekend. I learned a lot about the game and about myself as a competitor by playing in front of big crowds, pressure situations, and dealing with adversity.

TigsTown: After a solid 2010 campaign at Mizzou, the Detroit Tigers selected you in the 24th round. Did you know the Tigers were a potential suitor?

Clark: I did talk to a Tigers scout about a week before the draft but I did not expect to be picked by them. I talked to several teams but honestly I thought the Baltimore Orioles would take me. They expressed the most interest and had called and offered me earlier in the draft but it did not work out. Very glad I ended up with the Tigers.

TigsTown: You're off to an incredible start this season. Is there anything different that you're doing either mechanically or within your approach?

Clark: I have made some mechanical changes but nothing drastic. Our pitching coach (Mike Maroth) has helped me develop a cut-fastball, which has been very helpful in keeping hitters off balance and getting ground balls. I would have to say that my biggest adjustment has been my mental approach to the game. I'm much more focused and confident in what I am doing on the mound. I try to throw quality strikes low in the zone and try to get the hitters to put the ball in play early in the count.

TigsTown: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?

Clark: I am not a superstitious person but I do have some pregame routines. After batting practice I get some food and relax, maybe play some cards with my teammates. About an hour before game time I will put on my headphones and listen to some music and read a little bit of my Bible and/or a daily devotional book. After I am done reading I keep listening to music until game time.

TigsTown: Being drafted in the later rounds, it's fair to say that you almost have to prove yourself a little more and work a bit harder than the next guy. Does any of that provide extra motivation? And, does it feel that much sweeter to accomplish what you have this first half?

Clark: I could choose to think that way but I am not bitter about being drafted in the later rounds. I can't be bitter towards a game that has given me so much. I feel that although I wasn't a "bonus baby", I still have been given the same opportunity to prove myself. The round I was chosen in was never going to affect how hard I was going to work. But I am very excited and pleased about how the season has gone so far. It's the most fun I have ever had playing baseball.

TigsTown: During your career you've continuously done a great job keeping the ball in the park. Just four long balls surrendered in over ninety career innings. What's your secret?

Clark: It's funny that you say that because I just gave up a monster home run against Jupiter this past weekend. [laughs] I'm really not sure to be honest. I'm definitely not complaining though!

TigsTown: Earlier you mentioned pitching coach Mike Maroth. What has it been like to work with him?

Clark: Being able to be around Mike and pick his brain has been one of the greatest blessings/opportunities I have had in baseball. He knows the game so well and is more than willing to coach/share his thoughts on a hitter or situation in a game. Every game for the first few innings you will see me sitting right next to him or close by just watching the hitters or asking him questions. I'm not sure if I will be able to do that in AA or above so I am taking advantage of the opportunity now and trying to learn how to read hitters from a former big leaguer.

TigsTown: For those out there that are unaware, what's in your repertoire?

Clark: I throw a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball, change-up, cut-fastball, and a curveball.

TigsTown: You've been an invaluable piece to the Flying Tigers bullpen; delivering in many different roles this season. Is there any particular role that you prefer or see yourself in down the road?

Clark: Honestly, whatever helps the team and gets me to Detroit I will do with a smile on my face. I love the game and can adapt to any role.

TigsTown: Getting away from the game, where did your nickname "Clark Bar" come from? There has to be a funny story there.

Clark: One of my college coaches Evan Pratt (who also played in the Tigers organization) started calling me that when I went to Mizzou. I love it. Hope it sticks.

TigsTown: This year's Lakeland squad seems like a tight-knit group. Who's the biggest prankster?

Clark: This team is great. All of the guys get along and to be honest everyone is a prankster. Tyler Collins is pretty entertaining. Bruce Rondon, Victor Larez, Hernan Perez, Brian Flynn, and Ryan Woolley are all really funny too.

TigsTown: What are some things away from the game that you like to do for fun?

Clark: Me, Brian Flynn, Kevin Eichhorn, James Robbins and Matt Perry are all roommates so we hang out a lot. We go to the pool and relax when we can. Otherwise most of the time we come back to the apartment and I beat Flynn up in Mortal Kombat on Xbox360. Don't let him try to tell you differently. [laughs]

TigsTown: Lastly, what's your all-time favorite baseball movie?

Clark: I have a few that I really like: The Natural, Major League, and my absolute favorite that I could watch all day everyday is Bull Durham.

A special thanks goes out to "Clark Bar" for taking the time out of his day to answer our questions. If you're not already doing so, be sure to follow him on twitter @TClarkDetBB

James R. Chipman is the Lakeland Flying Tigers correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.

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