Tyler Clippard, 37, made 33 appearances out of the bullpen at Triple-A Rochester, more than he’d probably hoped to, and dealt with the pitch clock they’re using now in the International League, but the veteran finally got called back up to the majors, joining the Washington Nationals’ bullpen after signing a minor league deal this spring with the club he’d previously pitch for from 2008-14.
His willingness to put in the work to get another opportunity impressed his new manager.
“You know what, it tells me a lot about Clippard,” Davey Martinez said before Thursday night’s game, “and I talked to him today about helping us, so that’s awesome. He’s a veteran guy who has done a lot of different things in his career in the bullpen, and I’m looking forward to putting him out there and competing.
“I told him today, I said, ‘Be ready. Yesterday I didn’t use you, but today is a different day.’ I just wanted to get you back here today, but be ready to pitch today.”
Having another veteran on the big league roster, the fifth-year skipper said, could provide all sorts of benefits.
“He’s done a lot of different things,” the manager said. “I asked him what was the toughest thing down there, and he said right away it was getting used to the pitch clock. That was tough for him, but now he feels like he gets on the mound and he goes. I’m interested to see that, because from the other side, when I’ve seen him pitch, he took his time, and so we’ll see how he reacts today.”
His first outing of his 16th big league season was a two-inning, 24-pitch outing in which he gave up just one hit.
Clippard threw five different pitches in the appearance, (a changeup, sinker, four-seam fastball, curveball, and splitter).
“He has six or seven pitches,” Martinez said after the outing. “He keeps hitters off-balance. What I know about Clippard is that he’s going to compete. I’ve seen him from the other side for a very long time. Another guy that worked really hard to get back up here, and he’s here, and he had a great outing for us today. Two innings, and he threw the ball well.”
Martinez sent Clippard back out for a second inning because he liked what he saw in the first frame.
“He had control of all his pitches,” Martinez explained. “And I know that about him. He’s going to throw strikes, and he did that tonight, and it was awesome to see him go out there and pitch. And what a great welcome back he got from the fans. It’s pretty awesome.”
Clippard told reporters after the game it felt like a homecoming being back in the nation’s capital.
“Just a lot of good memories. I felt like the fans were pretty receptive to me coming into the game, which was a cool feeling, and, yeah, something I’ll never forget,” Clippard said when he spoke with reporters after the game.
“It felt like I was home,” Clippard added, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“It was a familiar feeling, for sure. Having the curly W on me gives me a lot of confidence, for whatever reason. I just feel good out there. That’s how I felt today. It was a lot of fun.”