The big, flame-throwing southpaw is taking longer than some had expected in getting his arm ready to pitch in the Intercounty Baseball League after signing with the Panthers July 1.
He’s yet to appear in a game, although the team believes he’s close, based on his side sessions in the bullpen.
In the IBL, pitchers need to log 12 innings with at least seven appearances to be eligible for unlimited use in the postseason. With 11 games still to play in the regular season, Clarke may have a tough time to get in the work he needs.
Without reaching that threshold, Clarke can still pitch the same number of innings in the playoffs that he pitches in the regular season, but no more than that.
Panthers’ General manager Scott Ballantyne said the team has long-term hopes for Clarke, a locally-raised talent, and doesn’t want to put him on the mound sooner than he’s ready.
“It’s not a setback. As a professional, his idea of how far along he wants to be when he’s ready to pitch might be further than the average guy who pitches in our league,” Ballantyne said.
The good news is the Panthers’ starters seem to be getting into a groove and aren’t desperate for Clarke, who figures to be in the rotation once he’s ready. Mike McGillivary, the team’s rubber-armed workhorse, pitched eight innings Friday against the powerful Brantford Red Sox, giving up only three earned runs.
Matt McGovern fanned ten the following day in a 5-0 rout of the Royals, and on Sunday Marcos Reyna finally returned to the lineup after missing nearly a month of action due to a shoulder injury. Adam Echlin also looked good in his last start, giving up just two runs in six innings in a win over Toronto July 11.
But the Panthers would still love to have a high-performing lefty like Clarke, who certainly has the pedigree to help the team. The former product of the Cambridge-based Ontario Terriers program was drafted by the Reds in the 19th round in 2009.
The six-foot-two, 220-pound Forest Heights Collegiate grad has a 2.85 ERA over five seasons in the minors, striking out 99 batters in 117 innings of work.
Clarke is still trying to regain the form he had in 2011, when he was 4-3 with a 3.06 ERA in 14 games split between the Reds’ Single-A affiliate Dayton Dragons and rookie-league Billings.
Injury limited him to only one game last season for the Reds’ rookie affiliate in Arizona, and his season ended last September with a 50 game suspension for failing a test for a recreational drug.