Offseason Q&A with Tyler Clippard

Battle Creek starting pitcher, Tyler Clippard, sits down with for an offseason Q&A session to talk about the biggest life lesson he learned in high school, who he has been most impressed with in the Yankees' system, what his goals are for next season, and much more. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

PinstripesPlus: Give us a little bit about your high school background if you don't mind.

Tyler Clippard: Well, I went to Palm Harbor High School in my freshman and sophomore years of high school, but didn't make the varsity team until I transferred to Mitchell High School for my junior year. I was the #1 guy on the staff for Mitchell HS. I went 6-2 with a 1.80 ERA. I believe I struck out 99 guys in 63 innings as a junior, walking 11. I won All-Conference honors and All-Sun Coast honors that year. I didn't get to play my senior year because my coach had a strict "no drinking" policy and I was charged with a DUI before the season. The coach kicked me off the team as a result and he would not give me a second chance. I had to go around to as many showcases as possible to let scouts see my stuff and it did cost me a lot in the draft, not pitching in high school my senior year. It was a bitter pill to swallow but I look back on it now and I realize that it probably was going to happen sooner or later and I am just thankful that I was able to learn such a valuable lesson so early in life without hurting others or myself. It helped me mature pretty quickly and you can bet I'll never do that again.

PinstripesPlus: So you didn't get to play for your high school team your senior year? How did you get scouts to notice you? That must have been tough.

Clippard: Honestly though, it all worked out well. I never wanted to be the guy in the spotlight. I want to be that guy that is not supposed to make it the Big Leagues. You know, I wanted to be the underdog. I went to a lot of showcases and went to the big showcase down in Jupiter. I played on the Florida Crush during that big showcase and our team finished 5th out of 162 teams. I pitched really well there and also flew up to Iowa for some indoor showcases. Ron Silver, a guy who runs a baseball academy down here in Florida called The Winning Inning, helped me set up some private workouts and he was a tremendous help. Since I wasn't able to play my senior year for my high school, I just had to get out there in front of as many scouts as possible by going to all of those showcases. The University of South Florida had signed me to play collegiate ball for them had I not signed a pro contract.

PinstripesPlus: So it sounds like you had a rough go of it your senior year. Take us back to draft day that year. What were your expectations heading into the draft that year?

Clippard: It just all happened so fast. I was not sure where I was going to be drafted to be honest. I knew that I wasn't going to sign for less than $200,000 if it was any other team that drafted me except the Yankees. The Yankees had such a good reputation of treating their players well and they were close to my home in Florida. I was all set to go to college and work my way back up that way if I had to. Ryan Harvey was one of my best friends and he went 6th overall to the Cubs that year and so we were just waiting for my name to be called. It was real cool when the Yankees selected me. They were definitely one of my top choices and I was thankful that it was them that drafted me.

PinstripesPlus: Okay, tell us a little bit about your first professional season after being drafted by the Yankees. How do you think your rookie season went? How do you feel about your progression thus far in the Yankees' system?

Clippard: I thought my rookie season went as well as it could have. I was a little intimidated at first because everybody was so good. Once you are put into that situation, you're a little unsure if you are going to be good enough. I proved to myself I belonged when I had a start where I gave up no runs, striking out ten and walking one guy. It gave me a ton of confidence. I was humbled a few times this past year in Battle Creek. I thought I could have done better towards the end of the year last season, but overall, I was happy about the year that I had.

PinstripesPlus: Have the Yankees hinted to you where you might start the 2005 season?

Clippard: They haven't given me any indication. I talked to my agent about it and we've heard nothing but good things as of now. I figured I must have a good Spring Training to start off in Tampa.

PinstripesPlus: What are your goals for the 2005 season?

Clippard: Well my main goal is to be the #1 guy and be the best pitcher on the staff. I want to keep my ERA under 3.00 and keep my walks down. That's my two main things. I figure if I do that, the strikeouts will come. I just want to open some eyes and keep impressing people. That's the idea. That's how you get to the Major Leagues and stay there. The Yankees want good control from us and that is what I focus on. I feel like there is a shot of making it to AA-Trenton at some point next year, but not a good shot. I would have to put up some ridiculous numbers and pitch lights out for that to happen. But how likely is that? I just want to start off in Tampa in establish myself there. I am still real young and I can't get ahead of myself by any means. My goal has always been to get to the Major Leagues by 2007 and to stay there. I'm well on my way but I jees need to keep it going.

PinstripesPlus: What have you been doing this offseason to get ready for next season? You live near the Tampa complex, right?

Clippard: Yeah, I live not too far from the Tampa complex and I work out there Monday through Friday during the offseason. There's two trainers there that oversee what I'm doing. They've got me on a weight training program. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I do med-ball work, agility stuff, and hit the weights, working out the lower and upper body on alternating days. Nardi and I went over my videotape and that has been a real advantage for me. It has helped a ton for sure and I feel like I'll have a 3-month head start on everybody else once Spring Training comes around.

PinstripesPlus: Give us a scouting report on yourself. What type of pitches do you throw at what speeds? What is your approach on the mound?

Clippard: I throw a fastball, curveball, changeup. That's what the Yankees want us to do, to establish those three pitches. I've always wanted to throw a slider/cutter, but for now, I am focused on mastering those three pitches first. I throw a 4-seam fastball and a 2-seamer. My fastball is about 88-91 MPH and can throw it as fast as 94 MPH at times. My curveball is about 75-78 MPH and my changeup sits between 78-82 MPH. I pitch with my fastball. When I'm pitching well, it is when I am locating my fastball well. My curveball was my out pitch when I was in the Gulf Coast League and my changeup was my out pitch when I was in Battle Creek last year. I wasn't as confident with my curveball as I was my first year, but it will be there for me next year. I felt I lost it a little bit last year, but after talking with Nardi, I am not too worried about it.

PinstripesPlus: Of the positional players you've played with in the Yankees' system, who has the highest upside in your opinion?

Clippard: All around, Melky Cabrera has the highest ceiling I've seen. Melky will be more consistent coming up through the ranks. He's just a tough out. He puts the ball in play a lot. He has a strong arm and can cover a lot of ground out there in the outfield. I love having him out there when I'm on the mound. Matt Carson is guy that nobody really talks about a lot, but he has all the physical tools. He just needs to get his average up a little higher, and if he can hit better at the higher levels, I love his upside. Of course there's Eric Duncan. He is an unbelievable hitter. He's such a professional hitter at 19-years old, it is really ridiculous. His defensive skills just need to be refined but he's going to be great.

PinstripesPlus: What about the pitchers? Which pitchers in the Yankees' farm system have the highest ceilings, of the guys you've seen?

Clippard: Matt DeSalvo is straight up dirty. He has like, six pitches, and has a ton of strikeout potential. Abel Gomez has got the most upside because he's so young. He throws 94 MPH and his delivery is really effortless. Gomez is real thin. If he adds any sort of mass to him, he's going to be real good. would like to thank Tyler Clippard for taking the time to answer our questions this offseason. Be sure to visit the site again throughout the year as Tyler will be checking in with us from time to time.

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