Patrick Teale

Ian Clarkin missed all of last season but he says he's really close to being his normal self again.

Missing an entire season like left-hander Ian Clarkin did last year is never easy. Even though he didn't require surgery all of the missed time has him trying to rediscover not only his stuff but his command too. He says he is really close to getting both aspects of his game back though and he credits all of the hard work he put into this past offseason.

He missed the entire regular season last year dealing with some nagging elbow pain and in fact didn't make an appearance until the Arizona Fall League in October.  Pitching so little in 2015 gave him but one goal in the offseason.

"Just to work as hard as I possibly can to get ready for this year," he said.  "Last year was a very frustrating year for me and I didn't want that to become a factor.  It was very motivating for me at the end of last season.

"I've never really dealt with failure too much.  In Arizona [Fall League] I felt I pitched fairly well but when I looked back at it I could have done better.  One of my mottos is 'failure is not an option'.  I took that into the offseason.

"A lot of things motivated me.  Not playing was the biggest one and failure is not an option.  I just need to play better to complete my dream."

Everyone knows he has talent but getting healthy and staying healthy is always the first and foremost goal.  Back in Tampa for a couple of months and now just a little more than a week away from the regular season, Clarkin says the elbow is no longer an issue.

"It's great, it's amazing," he said of the elbow.  "I threw [the other day], I threw well, and I couldn't feel any better.  It's a good sign and I'm ready to go this season, no more injuries."

Missing as much time as he did last year, however, has him somewhat starting back from square one in some respects.  Not only is rediscovering the command of his pitches a work in progress but so is building up his arm strength again after throwing just a handful of innings in 2015.

"It's building up slowly," he said.  "There's a couple of things after watching film that I'd like to improve on.  The velo is going to be there.  It's still March.  I'm not worried about that at all.

"As the season goes on I'm better at the end than I am in the beginning.  The velo will obviously come so I'm not worried about that at all."

Getting the power back in his fastball isn't the only thing he's working on either.  Sure getting command back of his plus secondary pitches is yet another aspect of his game he's working on but so is making some changes to his delivery, especially since he wasn't able to implement too many after completing his first full season in 2014 with the injury last season.

"We're modifying a few things out of the windup and stretch," he revealed.  "The big leg kick has simmered down to a smaller leg kick and out of the stretch it's all quick-step.  We changed that and that's what I've been working on to this point.

"Now that I've got that all figured out it's about executing my pitches in certain situations.  If I have to take anything out of my [previous outing] the curveball is still a work in progress.  It had good bite and good depth on it but at the same time I need it a little bit harder but that will come.  I'm not worried about it at all."

Speaking more to the lack of in-the-zone command he had of his curveball, Clarkin, who has essentially been rehabbing for the better part of a year now, is still seeking more consistent command of all of his pitches and he believes it is getting oh-so close to the point where it was before the elbow injury.

"I think everyone can work on command.  This is not a perfect game, you can't be perfect.  Even if you throw a perfect game there's still going to be balls you wish you had back.

"I'm definitely a perfectionist and I'm trying to perfect something that's very hard to perfect, and command is something everyone can work on.  Even if you throw 80 strikes out of 100 you still threw 20 balls."

Not worried at all about the power and command still working their way back, Clarkin is very encouraged about the current state of his secondary pitches.

"Definitely," he said emphatically.  "[The other day] I tried to establish the fastball well and I did so I was trying to bring out the curveball and changeup when I needed it.  The curveball and changeup have looked great in bullpens.

"The changeup has been the best pitch so far but the curveball will come.  It's still good, it's just not where I'm used to.  I'll probably fix that in this next bullpen, I'm really that close.

"I'm extremely encouraged.  I'm just out here to help the club.  That's my goal, that's my dream.  I've never worked harder in an offseason to be where I am.  From here I just have to perform, that's it.  I know I've put in the time and I've put in the work so now it's just going out there and performing."

Obviously excited to get back on the mound in official games for the first time in quite some time, Clarkin is also happy about how close his game is to being fully back too.  He believes he is really close to being the pitcher he thinks he can be heading into the 2016 season.

"I still think there's some time needed but I'm getting close.  Shoot, I learned a lot last year watching so many games.  I can't even tell you how many games I watched on film.  I've learned so much so I'd say I'm two times better than I was last year.  I'm trying to be perfect which is tough to do but that's my expectation," he concluded.

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