Best of 2007: Moment #15

Tyler Clippard / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Moment #15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB Debut
May 20, 2007
Flushing, NY

This probably could have been a little higher on the list, but I think a lot of people had expectations that Clippard would make his debut at some point during the 2007 season.

But wow, what a debut it was.

Good news, kid…you’re going to the big leagues.  The bad news?  We’re going to throw you right into the Subway Series against the Mets at Shea, and oh by the way…the game is on national TV.  Good luck.

That was pretty much the scenario for Clippard, where he faced the potent New York Mets on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on May 20th.

A second inning home run by David Wright was essentially the only blemish on Clippard’s slate, but he retaliated with a long double of his own in the sixth. 

“It’s been a while since I’ve swung it, so that was definitely a bonus,” Clippard joked.

As for the pitching line, it was pretty impressive: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB and 6 K.

“It was fun, it was a pretty good experience,” Clippard said in July.

“It was good to experience (the big leagues) and get that under my belt so I’m prepared for the next time that happens.”

Clippard spent the entire 2006 season with the Thunder, and did quite a bit to catapult himself — at the very least — into the discussion about the Yankees top pitching prospects.  His funky motion always stood out in Trenton, but his numbers always made his strongest statement, specifically his strikeout total.

The Yankee Clippard rebounded from a so-so first half to post a 12-10 record and 3.35 ERA in 28 starts for the Thunder, including a no-hitter that earned him his own bobblehead during the 2007 season.  His 175 strikeouts were not only a career high, but also led the Eastern League.

Things were looking good for Clippard going into the 2007 season, and his dreams were quickly realized after the quick call-up to the Yankees.  But after getting sent back down, Clippard was victimized by a numbers game — namely that Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain needed to go up a level — and he eventually went all the way back down to Trenton.

“It’s not something I wanted to happen, I definitely didn’t see this coming at all,” Clippard told me upon his return.

“I don’t have any control over these things, so I just have to make the best of it.”

When pressed for a reason for being sent down, he wasn’t entirely sure.

“I wasn’t throwing like I know I can, but I didn’t feel like I was doing terribly,” he said.

“It’s tough for me to say that I was going through a rough patch, but I wasn’t pitching to what I was capable of, I guess is the best way to put it. So now I’m here.”

Clippard certainly made the most of his time in Trenton, although the numbers might not show it.  He couldn’t quite regain his consistency, and after getting the nod for Game 2 in the 2006 Eastern League Division Series, he was skipped entirely in the first round of the playoffs in 2007.

But manager Tony Franklin had the confidence to give him the ball for the first game of the Championship Series.

“Everyone was asking why Clippard is going in this game,” said Franklin after the game.

“Our feeling was that whoever we sent out there was going to do a good job, and it was his turn to pitch. Was he consistent out there throwing strikes? No, he wasn’t. Did he have his best stuff tonight? No, he didn’t. But sometimes, what it takes is just sheer determination to just pitch the game when you don’t have your best stuff, and he did that tonight.”

With his Major League debut happening at the beginning of the season, and winning an Eastern League championship happening towards the end, things weren’t so bad after all for Tyler Clippard.

Again the victim of a numbers game, Clippard was shipped to the Nationals this off-season for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, who has an outside chance to start the season in Waterfront Park himself.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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2 Responses to “Best of 2007: Moment #15”

  1. Mike R. Says:

    I remember that game. It was exciting to watch clip continuosly mow down Reyes. I really wish him the best in Washington and hope he finds a spot in the rotation.

  2. thunderbaseball Says:

    There are people who think Clippard could be the Opening Day starter over there. I liked Clip a lot, he was always very good to me and I thought he had above average stuff…but I think the fact that people think that’s a realistic possibility is more an indication of how bad Washington’s pitching staff than it is a testament to Clippard’s skill.

    I also wish him the best, and I think this could be the perfect situation for him to develop at the Major League level.

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