BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The free agency period was kind of a dry one for pitcher Tyler Clippard. He expected to get a lot more interest from teams than he did, but the one team that really wanted him, in fact, turned out to be the team that he really wanted to be with, and that’s the Arizona Diamondbacks, who signed him to a two-year deal on Monday.
“I know, internally here, there (we’re) a lot of people fighting for me, and I really appreciate that,” Clippard said. “When it’s all said and done, you want to feel welcome in the organization that you’re going to, and I certainly do here. It’s been very nice to have a lot of people on my side, and to make this all happen. More importantly, for my end, I felt strongly about the quality of team that they’re gonna have, and I’m excited to be a part of that. Them (Diamondbacks) welcoming me with open arms is a big deal too. It’s a pretty cool thing that’s going on right now, (and) I’m very excited.”
Clippard was pretty busy last season, flipping between two teams – the Oakland Athletics and the New York Mets – but in his cross-country travels, he still found time to catch up on the Diamondbacks, and get a bit of a scouting report on them. What he saw from the team really opened his eyes about possibly coming out to the desert to work.
“I very much was excited to watch them play last year,” Clippard said. “I think all the little intangible things that a championship caliber team does well, the Diamondbacks did last year, and are going to have that moving forward, talking offensively, defensively; things like that. They’ve added some really key pieces to what was missing from the puzzle last year this offseason, so with all that being said, it’s very exciting to think about the potential in this team.”
“It just seems like, for me, being around the last couple days here, organizationally, it’s a very exciting organization as far as the personnel and the coaching staff, and the way they approach things, and the way they communicate with their players. It just already seems to have a real good feel,” Clippard said.
If there’s anyone who can sit down with the players in the Diamondbacks organization, and tell them what it takes to get to the World Series, it’s Clippard, who played in it with the Mets last year. Clippard and the Mets ran the gauntlet, having to get through the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, for the right to play in the World Series. They weren’t successful in bringing home another world title, as they lost to the Kansas City Royals in five games, but it’s an experience Clippard will never forget, and it’s one he will always be able to pull out and tell his new teammates about to give them some perspective on playing in October.
“I’ve been through it, so I feel like I have some knowledge there that I can give some guys, and guys can ask me questions and bounce things off me,” Clippard said. “I think, on a bigger picture level, it’s very important for, top to bottom, organizationally, from every guy, player(s), coaches, front office and throughout the whole organization, that everyone believes that this team can win. That’s more important than I can ever come in and just tell guys; everyone has to believe that.”
“From meeting the manager (Chip Hale), the GM (Dave Stewart), (Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer) Mr. (Tony) LaRussa, everybody in this organization so far that I’ve met has that mentality, and it’s a trickle down effect,” Clippard said. “Once I get in the clubhouse, and meet the guys, and see where everybody’s at, I’m sure it’s going to be more of the same, which goes along with the excitement that I’m feeling right now, being part of this, (and) coming in the door knowing that everybody has that championship mentality already in the back of their minds, (and) ready to get after it.”
One of the things about Clippard that had to have impressed Stewart, LaRussa and Hale, was his durability and his versatility. He’s the only pitcher in the Majors to have appeared in at least 69 games in each of the last six seasons. He’s won games (34) in that span, and he’s also saved a lot of games (53) in that span.
Essentially, Clippard’s a “jack-of-all-trades” kind of pitcher, who could care less what his role is with the team, whether it be long relief, a setup man or a closer (even though Stewart said Brad Ziegler would start the season as the closer). He just wants to be handed the baseball and get batters out. It’s as simple as that.
“At this point in my career, I want to contribute on any level that the team needs me to contribute,” Clippard said. “I’ve said that all along: A good bullpen isn’t just one guy. It’s not two great setup closers, it’s not a great seventh, eighth (and) ninth (inning), it’s a collective group effort. That’s what good bullpens are, is seven guys, picking each other up when you need days off, (and) pitching in big spots.”
“I don’t really have expectations as far as when I’m going to be actually used, but I’m ok with that,” Clippard said. “I know what it takes to win championships, and to have a good bullpen, everyone needs to have that same mindset, and I think we do here. There’s really nobody down there that’s going to have an ego about any of their roles. It’s going to be very easy for everybody to be on the same page as far as that goes, and that’s what’s exciting.”