It's good to be back. I didn't realize how small the zone was over there. There were pitches today that I thought were balls that were (called) strikes. —Caleb Clay
SALT LAKE CITY — It's officially the year of the pitcher. The Salt Lake Bees tied a franchise record for most pitchers used in a season Sunday afternoon when Caleb Clay became the 35th different pitcher to take the mound for the Bees in a 4-1 victory over Nashville.
Clay scattered three hits over 5 2/3 innings to pick up the victory in his Salt Lake debut.
"Stuff-wise, (Clay's) not going to blow you away, but the command is great," Bees pitching coach Erik Bennett said. "No deep counts, forced early contact in the at-bat and kept pressure on the hitter."
Clay began the year playing overseas in the Korea Baseball Championship with the Hanwha Eagles. He joins Bees pitchers Justin Thomas and Anthony Lerew as players that have honed their skills on foreign soil. Clay is happy to return to his native country.
"It's good to be back," Clay said. "I didn't realize how small the zone was over there. There were pitches today that I thought were balls that were (called) strikes."
Clay's performance should help a pitching staff that's had its struggles this season. The Bees came into Sunday's game with a team ERA at a PCL-high 5.96 and had surrendered 32 runs in their last three games — all defeats. With 35 pitchers used already this season, Bennett has had the chance to coach a plethora of arms.
"The main thing is getting to know everybody and getting into a routine with them,"Bennet said. "A lot of these guys are older guys and are pretty much set in their ways, and now it's just a little bit of fine-tuning stuff with them."
If first impressions are anything, the latest new pitcher can stay a while. Clay doesn't have a high-end fastball, only reaching the high 80s on the radar gun, but he was efficient. He used his change-up and a cutter to generate nine fly ball outs. Considering the light mountain air of Salt Lake, that's something Bennett hopes doesn't become a trend.
"I would like to see more ground balls, especially in this park," Bennett. "He just got under guys with some cutters. Hopefully we will see more ground balls (going forward.)"