At the time, the right-hander was 23 years old and in his second season in the Yankees organization after being dealt over from the Tigers in the Gary Sheffield trade. He made 29 appearances out of the bullpen for Trenton that season and posted a 4-2 record with nine saves and 2.15 ERA en route to helping the Thunder win their second of back-to-back Eastern League Championships.
While it’s safe to say that the ring he won the following season was far more significant, Claggett’s 2009 campaign certainly didn’t go quite as smoothly. The personable California native made just two appearances for the Bronx Bombers and got, well…bombed. In 2 2/3 innings, he allowed ten runs on 11 hits and four walks, and spent the rest of the season in Triple-A Scranton before getting DFA’d and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he also threw in one big league contest.
Now 26, Claggett hasn’t been in the big leagues since, and starts this year in Double-A Altoona. However, he remains confident that he can once again rise up to the big leagues. During my trip to Erie, I was able to catch up with one of the standout members of Trenton’s second title team. Here’s how the conversation went…
Mike Ashmore: It’s only been three seasons since you were last in Trenton, but so much has happened to you since then. Can you take me through your impression of how things have gone for you since you last pitched for the Thunder?
Anthony Claggett: “A lot of stuff has happened. I went to big league camp in ’09, it went really well. I broke camp with Triple-A Scranton, and pitched pretty well in the beginning and then I got my first Major League call-up. That didn’t go so well. It was a pretty shocking experience. I was up and down for the year, and didn’t get many outings in the big leagues. But I pitched well in Triple-A, and got designated at the end of that year and the Pirates picked me up and I finished out the big league season with them. Last year, I started out the season with Indianapolis in Triple-A. It was pretty much a rocky start from the get go. There was a time there in the middle where I was pitching really well, but most of the year was just inconsistent with my stuff and how things were going. This year, I’m back in Double-A to start the season. It’s not where I want to be, but that’s the way it is. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step backwards to go forwards. I want to get back up to Triple-A and hopefully the big leagues again.”
Ashmore: As you mentioned, your time with the Yankees didn’t really go as well as you’d hoped. Was there sort of an awestruck feeling of being up in the big leagues at that time that attributed to some of that?
Claggett: “Obviously, I was a little nervous going in and it being my first time, but it didn’t feel overwhelming. It didn’t feel like it was nothing I couldn’t control. But just the way things went, I look back it now and it’s just ‘wow.’ On paper, it just looks awful. I would never trade the experience. I got to the major leagues with the New York Yankees. It was an amazing experience. I look back on that time and just kind of smile.”
Ashmore: Things with the Yankees ultimately didn’t pan out, but at the time, was it somewhat of a blessing in disguise to be claimed by the Pirates and have more of an opportunity to get back to the Major League level?
Claggett: “I think so. Right when they picked me up, they sent me to Florida for two or three days and then they allowed to finish out the season in the big leagues with them. That was awesome. Still being with them, I still feel like I have a shot to get back up there. They’re going in the right direction now, just with the start of this season, so I hope I can be a part of that.”
Ashmore: Is it difficult to be back in Double-A to start this season?
Claggett: “Well, you know, the way the season went last year, going into spring training it was something that I obviously thought could happen. And it did happen. My spring was kind of up and down again. So I’m starting here and I’ve got to pitch well and move up. But I’m not going to pout about it or blame anyone but myself. I’m just going to come out and try to get back to where I was.”
Ashmore: Is there a risk, given the situation that you’re in, to try to press and maybe try a little too hard to get out of here?
Claggett: “I have done that in the past, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself. I just tell myself right now, since the season just started, to relax and go out and have fun. I know I can get to the big leagues, because I’ve been there. I know I pitch in Triple-A, because I have. I’ve just got to back to where I was.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com