Stephen Tarpley, a former third-round pick, has been quite the force from the Tampa Yankees’ bullpen since starting his first full season in the New York Yankees organization. Tarpley came over in the Yankees and Pirates trade for Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh packaging Tarpley, and Tito Polo.
While Polo is now with the White Sox after the blockbuster trade that sent Ian Clarkin to Chicago as well, Tarpley is the only player still with the Yankees, keeping it from being a total giveaway, and he’s proving his worth so far as well, despite a rocky start.
Tarpley came to High-A Tampa after the trade but was then shut down due to injury just before Tampa’s playoff run. Despite starting his 2017 campaign late, it’s all in the past now as he tries to maintain his composure and start climbing the ranks in the organization. Tarpley, 24, is a similar case to former Yankees’ prospect Ian Clarkin having Double-A, Triple-A talent, but because of injuries still not where they could be. Of course, being in the Yankees’ organization right now as a pitcher, you’re going to have to wait your turn until further moves are made.
I had the chance to talk to Tarpley on what his 2017 season has been like so far, injuries, adjustments, and beyond. Since he made his season debut, he’s stunned with 25 2/3 innings pitched, 30 strikeouts, and a 0.82 WHIP. As for runs, he’s given up none, and he’s holding batters to just a .075 average. There was no report as to why he started the season just last month; luckily it wasn’t anything too serious.
Tarpley explained, “It was just a little shoulder soreness, but halfway through Spring Training they shut me down because of it. Then just getting healthy and they wanted me to work on some things here and there, but just a little shoulder soreness”.
I then asked him on his mentality throughout the process of dealing with injuries and how he handles them when trying to move up in the organization.
“Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes to be injured, but persevering and taking it as adversity, trying to get better as a person and a player. It gives you time to think about things you need to work on and what you did to potentially cause that injury. So I believe that it’s just been making me stronger as a person mentally and physically”.
This was just touching the surface of Tarpley’s mental makeup. Injuries don’t help anyone, but when they happen as frequently as they have to a player like Tarpley, in his third organization, trying to prove himself to the New York Yankees, setbacks aren’t easy. However, when you get a player that can manage to keep his composure and trust his talent and body to still make something of himself no matter what, it makes you feel a bit better in the long-run.
We then got to Tarpley’s adjustments on the mound, his arsenal of pitches, and any improvements he’s made since the start of the season. “
I think my two-seam has improved a lot, just overall my pitches in the zone have improved. Getting guys to chase, knowing when to throw my pitches and when to use them in different situations like with men on, lefty-righty power guys, fast guys, bunters and ambush guys. I think just using my pitches to the best of my ability and becoming who I am as a pitcher has gotten a lot better this year. Getting repetition out there and becoming better at using those pitches in certain situations and scenarios, especially the more I move up. Cleaning up things here and there so I can focus more on the batter”.
I then asked Tarpley what his strongest personal asset was as a pitcher, one of my favorites to ask and understand a player more, his answer showed even more of a plus on his mental toughness.
“I’d like to say that no matter what situation I get put in I’m going to be composed, I’m going to grind through some outs even if I don’t have my best stuff. Just being that guy that you can rely on is one of my biggest assets I like to pride myself on”.
He spoke more on his ‘assets’ and what’s been working so well for him this season.
“Like I said, just throwing my pitches in certain situations, knowing when to throw pitches, reading the batters, doing research. Just trusting myself and being confident in what I’m throwing out there. Knowing that I got a good eight guys behind me, helps me get through these innings, and my teammates have made a bunch of good plays to get me out of stuff, so I think it’s just a mixture of all of that.”
Health-wise Tarpley said he felt “really good,” despite the Florida State League and how it’ll “beat you up.”
Tarpley was a starter last season, but since returning from his injury he’s been working out of the bullpen, there was no word on what the future was for him, but with his success so far this season, it’d be foolish for the Yankees to keep him in the bullpen. So far in 2017, the most he’s throw in a game was 53 pitches, but he was sure they would “clarify” his position in the “near future.”
Again, the Yankees still need a lot of spots to be opened up throughout Triple-A and Double-A, once that happens it’ll be easier to see who they want to move, keep, or promote. Tarpley has the ‘stuff’ to be in at least Double-A right now. However, they may want pitching coach Tim Norton to work with him more and work up to starting again before that promotion comes.