Ian Clarkin, despite missing all of the 2015 season, has gotten off to a solid start in 2016.

TAMPA, FL -- Despite taking the last season off to recover from an elbow injury, pitcher Ian Clarkin is back in the lineup for the Tampa Yankees and if his first four starts are any sort of true indication then it appears he hasn't skipped a beat despite his season-long absence.

Officially Ian Clarkin didn't register an inning of minor league baseball last year.  In fact, he had to wait until the Arizona Fall League in the offseason to see his first actual in-game mound time in 2015 and he only pitched a grand total of 24.2 innings for the Surprise Saguaros.

However, Clarkin took a negative situation and learned a lot during his recovery period leading up to Spring Training this year, using that time to study film daily, train in the weight room regularly to build his arm strength back up, and most importantly how to be a better teammate overall.

“I worked as hard as I possibly could this offseason. It was everyday hours and hours getting my treatments in, and working my absolute butt off in the weight room,” Clarkin said.

Clarkin used the Arizona Fall League as a way to really get back into his groove. According to Clarkin that was where he really shook off the rust after being off the mound for that long. HE threw four innings for the Surprise Saguaros in his Arizona Fall League debut, allowing one run on three singles, one double, and three walks. He struck out two, got six ground outs, no fly outs, and threw 37 of 64 pitches for strikes (58%), but more importantly it gave him some priceless game experience he otherwise would have been lacking in 2015.

“This year I feel like I had a full season under my belt last year because of the fall league and the competition out there was really great,” Clarkin said.

During Spring Training this year Clarkin impressed Tampa Yankees manager Pat Osborn not only because of his presence on the mound but due to the increased variety of pitching styles Clarkin has been able to deliver.

“This is a guy who’s known for his curveball, but I’ve seen some development with his changeup and also his fastball command has impressed me, especially inside the right-hand hitters,” Osborn said.

Moving forward, Osborn says improving not only his other pitches is a major key to improving his overall game, but getting his curveball even more precise is crucail.

“He’s gonna need it to become part of his arsenal for him to move up the ladder,” Osborn said.

Tampa pitching coach Tim Norton is very confident in Clarkin’s abilities coming back this season and knows that it’s just a matter of getting back into the swing of the game. Clarkin has built up his pitches over the last two seasons, and focused on fixing the minor details of his game, but according to Norton the key is to just let Clarkin play.

“We’re excited for him to get back in the mix," Norton said.  "He just needs some innings, build that arm strength. I think he still has a little more to go, some more in there and as the innings go I think he’s gonna get stronger.

So far Clarkin has made four starts for Tampa, pitching a total of 23 innings—allowing 22 hits, six earned runs, and tallying up thirteen strikeouts. Although management has been happy with Clarkin’s performance so far this season, they know he is a perfectionists and Clarkin himself was not too pleased with his opening numbers.

“I gave up a lot of ground ball singles, and soft hit balls…but moving forward I’m working on finishing my pitches. Sometimes I cut off pitches and that’s where I tend to walk guys,” Clarkin said.

Clark has also been working on improving his technique. According to Clarkin he’s made a lot of changes focusing on the “little things” of his game which everyone seems to like.

“I’ve shortened my leg kick," he said. "I was stretching a lot faster on the plate, I’m holding guys on better, and I’m just more comfortable out there,” Clarkin said.

Clarkin was disappointed with the overall outcome of his performance of his second start in particular. He gave up three runs after not allowing any hits his first three innings, and he knows that he was not as sharp as he could be out there on the mound.

“I felt like I let that game slip away from me,” Clarkin said.

Clarkin’s fastball velocity has been right on track according to Osborn, maybe a tick or two slower but that’s nothing the team is really concerned about right now. Clark’s fastball has been back in the low-90’s range, ranging up to 94 mph at times, but the main thing the team is working on with him right now is improving his ability to control the running game.

“In the past he’s had a slow delivery to the plate, and base runners have been able to steal very successfully against him,” Osborn said.

It's a major reason why Clarkin has rid himself of the rather high leg-kick he once employed but the good news is he has grown accustomed to his new mechanics rather quickly.  His a very hard worker according to Osborn and Norton. They have confidence in Clarkin’s ability to return this season stronger than ever, it’s just a matter of getting all the pieces of his game to fully connect. Clarkin is also very confident in himself this season, and knows that pitcher needs to possess that at all times.

“I think my confidence level is always very high. You can’t go out there and not be confident, because that’s when you’re gonna get hit around,” Clarkin said. “I’m three times better than I was two years ago, so I’m ready to go.”

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