OAKLAND — The first text he got was from Ron Marinaccio, of course. There was another injury in the Yankees bullpen and Clarke Schmidt was on his way back to the Bronx. It’s a trip that Schmidt and Marinaccio have become familiar with over this season. The two young talented arms with options can go back and forth to the minors and help manage the Yankees’ 40-man roster.
It’s a fraternity that no player wants to be a part of, but it’s one that has bonded the Yankees’ two young arms.
“I think it’s really tough when you go down there,” Schmidt said. “You’re pitching these big games up here and these high adrenaline games and then you go down there and — I’m not taking anything away from Triple-A — but it’s a different ballgame. So you feel like you’ve already checked that box off and then you go back down.
“But [we] have a great relationship and it helps being able to communicate through these things and being able to have somebody who understands and can relate to the situation that’s going on right now,” Schmidt continued. “It’s good to have a sounding board and somebody to bounce ideas off of. I’m honestly really thankful that I met him and we have come up together and we’ve had some good success of this level together this year.”
This week, they are both back in the big leagues with Schmidt expected to start Sunday’s series finale against the A’s at the Coliseum in the place of the injured Nestor Cortes.
It will be Schmidt’s second start in the big leagues and his 18th appearance in the majors this year. Used as a spot starter and a long reliever, like throwing three scoreless against the Mets on Tuesday, Schmidt has pitched to a 2.18 ERA.
Marinaccio has been a huge part of the Yankees bullpen — when he is not caught in the numbers crunch and waiting for the next call-up. He has not allowed a hit in 22 of his 27 appearances, the most such games by any big league pitcher this season. He has not allowed a run in 24 appearances, the most by a Yankee pitcher through 27 appearances to start his career. He has 10 scoreless outings this season over an inning and four over two innings pitched.
Still, with options (meaning the Yankees can send them back to the minors without having to expose them to waivers and other teams claiming them) the rookie right-handers have found themselves riding the bus with the Scranton Railriders this year. That is where their friendship has really gotten deeper, reminding each other not to waste time in Triple-A.
“We definitely talk to each other about it. We keep pushing each other to stay locked in,” Marinaccio said. “It’s not easy. Obviously, we all want to be here, but at the end of the day, we want the organization to be in the best position as well. And, so obviously, sometimes it’s not the best for us, but we’re putting in our time.”
And they make sure that time is used wisely by working on their pitches together.
“He has a different pitch package than me, but he’s a smart kid and he knows how to shape pitches and stuff like that. So if he sees something that I don’t see, I see something that he doesn’t see, we’ll talk over that and go over stuff like that,” Schmidt said. “He’s obviously really talented. So, it helps, being able to ask questions to him and he’ll ask questions to me. So we’re just constantly finding ways to get better and try to help the team.”
And they aren’t forgotten when they are in the minors. Their teammates from the bullpen keep in contact. They usually give them a heads up that a move is about to happen too.
“The guys here stay in touch with us when we’re down there as well to keep us in the loop of who may or may not be feeling so great. Just so we can mentally stay prepared as well,” Marinaccio said. “I think the biggest part is just trying to stay in a good mental spot because it’s not easy to go there and then expect to just flick the switch when you come back here and jump right back into it.”
With September around the corner — and MLB rosters expanding to 28 — it could be the end of the Scranton-Bronx shuttle for Marinaccio and Schmidt this year. But it’s built a bond that has lasted.
“We have a lot of the same interests, so now we’re in the same fantasy league teams and stuff. We hang out together on the road,” Schmidt said. “I feel like he’s become a good friend and I am really glad I’ve had him to go through this with.”