NEW BRITAIN - As the Somerset Patriots pounded New Britain Bees starter Rainy Lara for five runs in the top of the fourth during Monday’s series opener at New Britain Stadium, Bees catcher Tyler Clark put on his gear and made the walk from the first base dugout to the bullpen behind the right field wall.
Clark was on his way to warm up reliever Ari Kaufman, but by the top of the ninth, Clark himself was throwing warmup tosses from the mound instead of receiving them from behind the plate.
With the Bees trailing 10-2 and battling to weather a storm of injuries to the pitching staff, manager Mauro Gozzo desperately need to save his arms. So, just one night after teammate and fellow catcher Logan Moore toed the rubber in a 15-1 loss to the York Revolution, Clark took his turn to enjoy a unique situation.
“I limited my pitch count and threw strikes,” Clark laughed after tossing a scoreless ninth. “It felt foreign to be out there, but it felt cool. I had never done that before, so it was fun.”
The scoreboard showed a hardly enjoyable situation for the Bees, but Clark made the most of it. With Moore behind the plate, Clark told his battery mate to prepare for his curveball, which he arched over the outside corner for a called strike and induced a foul ball with his other breaking ball. Two hooks, two strikes.
“I think I got something there,” Clark joked. “I can mix it up.”
Moore, who had the best view in the house of the pitch Clark insisted he unleash, wasn’t too impressed.
“It was slow, but it was over the plate,” Moore laughed. “So I’ll take it.”
Clark’s fastball didn’t have much on it either, as the catcher kept things loose on the mound to avoid injury. The first batter he faced was Mike Ohlman, who crushed a fastball to straightaway center before Alejandro De Dza rushed back to the wall and made the catch with his back turned toward Clark, who was breathing a deep sigh of relief.
“First thought off the bat was ‘so that’s what that feels like,’” Clark said. “I thought it was a home run, but De Aza made a nice play.”
Much like his curveball, Clark wasn’t expecting to light up the radar gun with the fastball that Ohlman almost took out of the park.
“Give me like, maybe 63 (mph),” Clark said of his ‘fastball.’ “I wasn’t trying to throw hard, just throw strikes.”
Clark surrendered a hard single to the next batter before getting a 6-4-3 double play to finish a scoreless ninth, just like Moore had done the game before. Though spirits weren’t high when the inning started, Clark’s performance provided a brief distraction from the innings that preceded the ninth.
“I think you just try to not get hurt,” Moore said. “You’re not going to try and throw it as hard as you can, but you have to have fun with it. You can’t be out there miserable because you’re losing. Every position player that gets a chance to pitch is going to have a smile on their face regardless of what the score is.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com