By Todd Johnson
I don’t think there’s any secret of my admiration for Cubs prospect Bailey Clark. The 2016 5th round pick out of the Duke has been a favorite of mine since he pitched at Eugene last summer. I already wrote about him once this year, and it’s not often that I write about a prospect more than once in the season, let alone a month. But yesterday, his start against Hillsboro made me want to examine the pitching job that he did.
I called his last start frustratingly magical. I don’t have any illuminative adjectives to describe yesterday’s start other than that he pitched extremely well. I know this is going to sound strange, but he scattered four walks across 5 innings while striking out three and allowing just three hits and an unearned run.
I thought it was his most efficient outing when it comes to pitchability. Heading into the fifth inning he had only thrown 50 pitches. He did finish the day with 72 and I think he could’ve gone one more inning if needed. But with a 9 to 1 lead, why push it.
From the beginning, Clark looked to be in command. He did give up a single in the first and had a pickoff attempt go down the first base line, but other than that he was able to get two pop-ups and a fly out against one of the top offenses in the Northwest League in Hillsboro.
The second, third, and fourth innings were pretty inconsequential. He was locating his fastball (low 90s), he was getting his curve across, and he wasn’t wasting any time nibbling on the corners. Aside from a walk in the third and a walk in the fourth, he looked to be around the plate all day long.
In the fifth, he did run into some trouble after giving up a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases. He did give up an unearned run on a throwing error that would’ve ended the inning. However, he got the next batter to line out and the damage was kept at a minimum.
This is about the fourth different Bailey Clark I’ve seen this year. There was dominant Bailey Clark who struck out nine against Boise and eight against Everett. There was also the wild Bailey to go along with the nibbler Bailey. However, I really liked the Bailey I saw on Sunday a lot.
He didn’t get rattled. He stayed in control. He didn’t begin nibbling or throwing 59 foot curves in the dirt. He looked like a pitcher navigating his way through a lineup – a very good one at that. He looked poised and mature.
I think I can handle this incarnation of Bailey Clark, too.