In reality, this extended period of stasis has lasted since Spring Training 2020, when the fireballing Schmidt looked precise, poised, and ready to stabilize the middle of the rotation.
Of course, since the universe will conspire in any way possible to halt the Yankees’ momentum, then came a pandemic (half-kidding).
Since then, we’ve seen Schmidt encounter any number of bumps in the road. He’s made the bigs, but he hasn’t stuck.
When the righty arrived in late summer 2020, he was first used in the most precarious spot possible, making his MLB debut in a high-leverage relief situation on the road in Baltimore, with runners on first and second and two outs in the fifth inning of a one-run game.
Unfortunately, things spiraled further from there, sending Schmidt to the showers unhappy in his first of three MLB outings thus far, and contributing to his career 1.895 WHIP. This spring, when we were told we’d see him again, the righty became the first Yankee to disappear from our radar entirely, hitting the shelf with an elbow issue that reportedly came from trying to throw too hard too soon. We were assured it was minor, but you never can tell with elbows.
Five months later, here we are. Schmidt has finally reemerged in the organized minors, throwing 2.2 innings of efficient baseball at Double-A Somerset on Thursday while showing off all the pitchability we’ve come to love. Could this stretch run actually be the righty’s time to shine, especially with so many pitching vacancies?
Could the Yankees use Clarke Schmidt down the stretch?
The Bombers weren’t kidding. They really have played this injury exceptionally cautiously.
But over the next two months — especially when rosters expand in September — what’s the excuse for keeping Schmidt’s innings limited to the minors? On Sept. 1, New York will be able to move their active roster from 26 to 28 participants. They should emphasize pitchers who can provide length as opposed to bench jockeys, and Schmidt should be well-suited by then to cover two or three innings or relief or taking a spot start when necessary.
In theory, the Yankees’ pitching situation should be preferable by then, and Jordan Montgomery and Gerrit Cole will have returned safe and sound, ready to remove all Wandy Peralta starts from the lexicon. But considering the number of important starts made by Jameson Taillon and the potential stress on his arm after several seasons away from the game, and additionally factoring in the possibly-stunted returns of Luis Severino and Corey Kluber, having a top prospect like Schmidt who can cover innings four, five and six on a given night feels advantageous. His timeline lines up with what the rest of the roster is doing.
Oh, but you can expand the roster to 28, you say? Great. Then perhaps the Yankees can find some room for the starter who relieved Schmidt on Thursday night, too. Because Ken Waldichuk was even better.
Two extra roster spots? Two extra minor-league aces.
The math just checks out.