Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt throws during the first inning of...

Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against Atlanta Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

TAMPA, Fla. — Clarke Schmidt had impressed teammates and coaches early in spring training with a cut fastball he’s trying to incorporate into his arsenal.

The righthander's fastball has always had a natural cut to it, the reason the Yankees felt throwing a cutter could be an option  for him. But he needed to test it against another team to get the kind of feedback only that kind of competition can provide.

Day 1 could not have gone much better.

Schmidt, getting the start in a split-squad game against Atlanta at Steinbrenner Field on Sunday, struck out five of the six batters he faced in two perfect innings of a 7-0 victory.

“It’s like getting a new car,” Schmidt said. “You’re itching and itching to use it. For me, I was really excited to be able to go out there and throw it [against another team].”

The pitch had played to rave reviews organizationally.

“I’ve been throwing it so much in live BPs, the analytics guys and hitters I’ve been facing, they’re like, ‘Just keep throwing it,’ ” Schmidt said. “Based off the metrics, they seem to really like it, and the hitters have been responding well to it, saying it’s been a gross pitch for me. They’re encouraging for it to be a high-usage pitch for me and it was a high-usage pitch today and I got a lot of swings and misses on it.”

Rival scouts took note of the pitch Sunday.

“It’s a pretty good complement to the slider,” one said. “I always thought he’d end up a late-inning reliever. Cutter may make a difference.”

Schmidt, who was a swingman in the bullpen a year ago and could have a similar role this season, went 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 29 games (three starts) in multiple stints with the Yankees in 2022.

Just a few games but . . . 

The difference the pitch clock has made in two of the  Yankees’ three exhibition games is remarkable. Saturday’s 7-4 loss to the Phillies at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, a facility notorious in the Grapefruit League for particularly long games, lasted just 2 hours, 34 minutes. Sunday’s victory over Atlanta required only 2:16 (the other split-squad game, a 9-5 victory over the Blue Jays in Dunedin, lasted a more typical 3:05).

Yankees players and staff have overwhelmingly lauded the pitch clock the last couple of days, with Aaron Judge the latest to do so.

“I like it,” he said. “Sometimes the guys  that take a while on the mound, you're almost on your heels a little bit [as a defender]. You're sitting back and all of a sudden the ball’s hit at you, and you’re not ready to go. I think this pitch clock is going to be a good thing for everybody.”

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