Taylor Clarke made quite the first impression in the Major Leagues, an indelible three-inning save for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who called up the right-handed pitcher from Reno earlier in the day.
Clarke struck out two and allowed just one hit and no walks in his debut, to preserve a win for the Dbacks and snap a four-game winning streak of the Chicago Cubs. Clarke also had a base hit in his first big-league at bat. Clarke became the first pitcher since saves became an official stat in 1969 to record a save and get a hit in an MLB debut.
On Sunday, reliever Jimmie Sherfy was recalled by the Dbacks for the first time this season, while Clarke was optioned back to Triple-A Reno. Sherfy is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA this season. He recorded his 50th career save with the Aces on April 18, a franchise record.
Another former Reno Aces player, first baseman Christian Walker, went 4-for-4 on Saturday, as Arizona beat the Cubs 6-0. With Jake Lamb on the injured list with a quad strain, the 2017 Pacific Coast League MVP Walker is making the most of his opportunity. The Ex-Ace is batting .353 with 6 home runs, 11 RBIs and 3 stolen bases.
Clarke, 25, is rated as the No. 10 prospect in the Dbacks’ farm system according to MLB.com. He has a 1-1 record with a 7.36 ERA and 1.36 WHIP with Reno this season. He led the Aces with 13 wins and a franchise record 125 strikeouts last season.
The right-hander has a four-pitch mix of fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup. His fastball touches the mid-90s and his curveball breaks at the knees of right-handed batters. Although Clarke doesn’t sport elite stuff, he maximizes his pitches with great command and control.
“He has that look about him that says, ‘No one is going to beat me,’ ” said Aces first-year pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru, who has been with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization nine years as a coach and a player.
“Nothing really jumps out at you, but (Clarke) has four pitches that he throws for strikes and he has plenty of ‘velo’ (velocity).”
Clarke was expected to start during the Aces’ four-game road trip against the El Paso Chihuahuas. Back-to-back losses have put Reno at 5-10 on the season, fourth place in the Pacific Coast League Northern Division.
Aces on the move and the road
Utility player Tim Locastro was optioned back to Triple-A Reno after he was recalled by the Dbacks nearly two weeks ago.
Juniel Querecuto has batted in the leadoff spot for the Aces in three-straight games, going 3-for-12 with two runs. He started the season on Reno’s injured list and is slotted in as the team’s second baseman.
Nicknamed “JQ” during his tenure with the Aces last season, Querecuto played shortstop for Venezuela in the Caribbean World Series. The rangy infielder collected five hits and one stolen base with the Dbacks in spring training this season.
Kevin Cron’s hot bat carried into the Aces’ eight-game road trip, hitting .571 with two home runs and four RBIs. He leads the team with five round-trippers, 18 RBIs and 14 runs on the year. Yasmany Tomas is right behind Cron with four homers, 12 RBIs and a .344 batting average.
Travis Snider is tied for second in the PCL with a .444 batting average. Snider went 2-for-3 with two home runs in the Aces’ 10-1 victory over the Albuquerque Isotopes on April 16.
On the mound, Dbacks’ top-pitching prospect Jon Duplantier had his second start with Reno on April 18. Duplantier tossed 2.2 innings with one unearned run, four walks and three strikeouts en route to a 6-3 victory over the Isotopes. Duplantier has a spotless 0.00 ERA in 5.2 innings this season.
Tonight, right-hander Taylor Widener will get the nod against El Paso for the second game of the four-game series. Widener is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts this year. He is expected to face southpaw Logan Allen.
The Aces return to Greater Nevada Field on Wednesday, April 24 to begin a five-game home series against the Fresno Grizzlies, Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Notes: Right-handed pitcher Spencer Jones, who played for Reed High School in Sparks, has landed with the St. Paul Saints, an Independent team in Minnesota. After playing college baseball at Washington, Jones was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 10th round of the 2016 draft. He was 5-3 with a 2.76 ERA last season in Advanced A and Double-A. He was released by the Montgomery Biscuits on March 27. “I just need to go (to the Independent League) and put up some good numbers and I’ll get another opportunity,” he told Tahoe Onstage’s Simon Ruvalcaba. … Former Aces outfielder Socrates Brito went 1-for-3 with an RBI single for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Oakland Athletics on Friday. His RBI single was his first career hit as a Blue Jay. … Former Aces infielder Ildemaro Vargas has five hits and four RBIs over his last 26 at-bats with the Dbacks. He batted in the leadoff spot with Arizona on April 18 against the Atlanta Braves. … The Aces are 3-6 on the road this season. … Reno has scored four or more runs in 12 games this year.