Blount Press Row

Clif Notes

Former Mountaineer ace progressing with Carolina League Pelicans

Myrtle Beach right-hander Trevor Clifton, left, watches from the bullpen between starts.

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Trevor Clifton took a different approach than most when it came to celebrating his 21st birthday.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans right-hander and Heritage High School product went out and pitched his best game as a professional.

Clifton has thrown ? scoreless innings over his last ? starts.

Clifton has thrown 11-plus scoreless innings over his last two starts for the Pelicans.

Then he did it again in his next start.

The power’s still there, but it’s his maturation as a pitcher that has him ranked as one of the Carolina League’s top arms as the season steams toward the halfway point, Clifton said.

“I’m changing little things in my delivery and throwing more strikes,” he said. “I haven’t been trying to do too much and just get my curveball over.”

The former Mountaineer, drafted out of high school by the Chicago Cubs, turned 21 on May 11. On May 12, Clifton pitched the Cubs’ high Class A club to a 3-0 win over the Winston-Salem Dash, the former Heritage ace surrendering four hits over six innings to go with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Six days later, he blanked the Dash, 2-0, fanning seven over 5 1/3 with three hits and one walk.

With most teams at 40 games played, Clifton ranks sixth in the Carolina League with a 2.62 earned run average over seven starts. His 41 strikeouts rank fourth, Dash right-hander Matt Cooper the league leader with 55.

Cooper has thrown 45 innings to date, Clifton 34.

Clifton's stock has risen steadily since reaching the Cubs high Class A club.

Clifton’s stock has risen steadily since reaching the Cubs high Class A club.

In his last five starts, the Pelicans power pitcher has yielded five earned runs, including the two shutouts.

It’s all a welcome turnaround from his first two starts this season, Clifton said.

“I’m just trying to get to Tennessee,” he said.

The Tennessee Smokies are the next rung up on the Cubs minor league ladder, but there’s no rush, Clifton said. It’s been a long, tough road to this point, most notably last year’s stay with the South Bend Cubs, where he struggled some with the rigors of life in the minors.

“It kind of took some wear and tear on my arm,” Clifton said. “Taking care of your arm is the most important thing from start to start. We’re all working toward that one goal.”

Clifton credits Myrtle Beach pitching coach Anderson Tavares and the Pelicans staff as a group for much of his improvement this season. When all else fails, there’s always his ace in the hole, he said.

“I’d like to give a shoutout to my family and the Mountaineers,” Clifton said.

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