‘The fastball’s special’: Could Clayton Beeter be the Yankees’ silver lining from the Joey Gallo experience?

‘The fastball’s special’: Could Clayton Beeter be the Yankees’ silver lining from the Joey Gallo experience?

Clayton Beeter was in the passenger seat, in the middle of a drive from North Little Rock, Ark., to Springdale, Ark. — from one minor league field to another — when he noticed an odd comment on a picture in his Instagram account.

A fan had written beneath one of his pictures, “Welcome to the Yankees.”

He looked over at his friend and read the comment.

“That’s a little weird,” Beeter told his buddy as word began to spread on Twitter on Aug. 2 — the day of the trade deadline — that he had been dealt.

It took another hour or so for the Dodgers to call. He did not need to finish the 200-mile trip. The 23-year-old, in his second year of professional baseball, had been swapped for Joey Gallo.

Just about any trade is a life-changer for each of the players involved, and it was especially strange for Beeter, who is set to make his Yankees organization debut Wednesday with Double-A Somerset.

The Fort Worth native and Texas Tech product grew up a Texas Rangers fan. They say to never meet your heroes; how about being traded for your heroes?

Clayton BeeterA Texas Tech product, Clayton Beeter grew up a fan of the Texas Rangers and Joey Gallo, the player for whom he was recently traded.Texas Tech

“That was pretty weird,” Beeter said Tuesday from the Patriots’ TD Bank Ballpark. “I actually told my girlfriend, it’s crazy. I grew up watching [Gallo], and then I just got traded for him.”

The Yankees — who lost for the sixth time in seven games Tuesday night, 1-0 in 13 innings to the Mariners — hope the trade that sent Gallo away will be more fruitful than the one that brought Gallo in. There is plenty of promise and potential pitfalls with Beeter, who is the newest intriguing arm the Yankees have to work with.

For now, the hope is the right-hander can stick as a starting pitcher, but he has filled a variety of roles. His Red Raiders career began with Tommy John surgery and was further complicated by an arthroscopic elbow procedure in 2018. He came back in 2019 as a closer. In 2020, he showed filthy stuff out of the rotation, striking out 33 in 21 innings before COVID-19 canceled the rest of the campaign. The Dodgers were impressed enough by the small sample to select him in the second round of that year’s draft.

Since going pro, Beeter mostly has started, but has been used in bursts, the Dodgers careful with an arm that already has gone under the knife a few times. In 46 games (43 starts) in a season and a half, he has not pitched past four innings.

He called the trade to the Yankees a “fresh start,” the latter an optimal word: The Yankees will continue to let him start and perhaps stretch him out. He said the two powerhouse organizations share a lot of in common, but he believes he will be used differently — used more — on the East Coast.

Clayton Beeter of the Somerset PatriotsAfter never throwing more than four innings in a start while in the Dodgers system, Beeter expects to have a chance for more extended outings with the Yankees.Photo courtesy of the Somerset Patriots

“It seems like here they’ll let us pitch more and make our own way,” said Beeter, who referenced how “protective” Los Angeles was with its pitchers.

The stuff is there — a hard fastball that has touched 98 mph and a big-time curveball with plenty of drop — but better results from Beeter would help an argument that he should be given a longer leash.

Last season, Beeter posted a 3.44 ERA in 52 ⅓ combined innings in High-A and Double-A while striking out 13.4 hitters per nine. This season, statistically, has been more of a struggle — a 5.75 ERA in 51 ⅔ innings with Double-A Tulsa, in which he has walked 35 (a lot) and struck out 88 (also a lot).

“I think just probably land my offspeed a little more,” Beeter said about what he needs to improve upon. “I guess I’m not as upset with my season as the way my numbers look. I don’t really feel like I need to change a whole lot. Just refine, get a little better in some areas, and I think things will start going a lot better.”

Joey Gallo #12 of the Los Angeles Dodgers takes his first at-bat as a Dodger in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on August 04, 2022 in San Francisco, California.The Dodgers hope a change of scenery helps Joey Gallo rediscover the offensive production he didn’t deliver for the Yankees.Getty Images

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder is a two-pitch pitcher, at the moment at least — “power fastball, power curveball,” he said — and has moved away from a slider and changeup that used to be in his arsenal. It is plausible to succeed in today’s major leagues as a starter with just two pitches, but those pitches have to be excellent. He may have to add a third and needs to improve his command.

The Yankees did not just send away Gallo, whom the Dodgers likely see as a high-end project with tremendous tools (if not tremendous results in The Bronx). In the trades that landed Frankie Montas, Andrew Benintendi and Scott Effross, the Yankees dealt eight prospects — including seven pitchers.

They wanted more high-upside arms to fill those cleats, which is where Beeter comes in.

“The fastball’s special,” said Somerset manager Dan Fiorito, who has watched Beeter’s bullpen sessions. “Power fastball with the ride that he has and also a sharp breaking ball.

“He’s a special arm. We’ll keep working with him and see what he has here.”

Today’s back page

The back page of the New York Post on August 10, 2022.New York Post

One of a kind

Serena Williams, widely recognized as one of the greatest athletes of all time, is calling it a career. The U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 29 in Queens, is likely to be her final tournament.

The incomparable Williams, 40, has won a record 23 Grand Slam titles in the Open era of tennis (the all-time record of 24, held by Margaret Court, is one tantalizing crown away). She won her first major, at the 1999 U.S. Open, when she was 17 and her most recent, at the 2017 Australian Open, while pregnant with her daughter, Olympia. She also has claimed 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her older sister Venus Williams (they’re 14-0 in finals).

Serena Williams (40) is stepping away from tennis after a 27 year career.Serena Williams is “evolving away” from tennis after a 27-year career.Best Image/BACKGRID

Serena’s accomplishments also include two Serena Slams (holding all four major titles at once), four Olympic gold medals (one singes, three doubles), 319 weeks at No. 1 and close to $100 million in prize money. What’s more, she revolutionized women’s tennis with her play and personality.

Goodbye to the greatest female tennis player of all time and — alongside contemporaries Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — one of the sport’s greatest players, period, regardless of gender. The world of tennis will sorely miss Williams, but her impact will endure as someone who broke barriers and became an icon.

– David Scott

Risky business

Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2022 in New York City.Chris Sale made two starts this season before suffering a broken finger in a game against the Yankees. After fracturing his wrist in a bicycle accident, he won’t be on a mound again until next spring.Getty Images

Let Chris Sale be a cautionary tale: Be careful on your bike.

Also: Be careful with your nine-digit contract offers handed to pitchers.

Sale’s nightmare season — his third since his five-year, $145 million extension kicked in — ended in depressing fashion with the Red Sox announcing Tuesday the lefty fractured his wrist in a bicycle accident. He underwent surgery Monday, and though the Red Sox expect him to be ready for spring training, what version of Sale can they expect in 2023?

Sale has made 11 regular-season starts and thrown just 48 ⅓ total innings in the first three seasons of the 14th-largest contract, by total value, ever given to a pitcher (thanks, Spotrac). He will be 34 years old in March, and still is due heavy money over two more years (before a vesting option for 2025).

Sale signed the extension after he helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series. The second-richest contract ever given to a pitcher went to Stephen Strasburg ($245 million) after he helped the Nationals win the 2019 crown. Strasburg has totaled 31 ⅓ innings in the three seasons since.

The Nationals also have the 16th-largest pitcher contract on their books. Patrick Corbin ($140 million) helped lead Washington to that 2019 title, but he has been a disaster since, with a 5.98 ERA. The Nats won’t be rid of that mega-deal until after the 2024 season.

Patrick Corbin #46 of the Washington Nationals in action against the Philadelphia Phillies during a game at Citizens Bank Park on August 6, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.In Year 4 of a $140 million deal with the Nationals, Patrick Corbin is 4-16 with a 7.02 ERA in 23 starts.Getty Images

Gerrit Cole (No. 1, $324 million) has been mostly excellent since joining the Yankees, if disappointing only because he has not delivered a championship. The Red Sox surely regret the $217 million they agreed to give David Price (No. 3) before they made the Dodgers take the money in the deal that sent Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

The Dodgers are OK with the $215 million given to Clayton Kershaw (No. 4) from 2014-20, and Max Scherzer’s $210 million (No. 5) from 2015-21 with the Nats was worth every penny. But generally, the longer a major league club commits to an arm, the greater the risk.

Jacob deGrom repeatedly has said he will opt out of his contract after this season. If he stays healthy over the next two months of the regular season (and another month of the postseason?), he would hit free agency as a 34-year-old superstar with major health concerns and perhaps the best stuff of any pitcher ever. What deal would you offer deGrom?

Mets owner Steve Cohen has said he wants to emulate the Dodgers — an organization that has avoided signing pitchers to lengthy pacts. The lone exception is for Kershaw, and perhaps there are similarities between the Dodgers legend and Mets star: Each has a significant relationship with his team’s fan base and is worth more to his own team than he would be worth to any other club.

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches in the fourth inning when the New York Mets played the Atlanta Braves Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, at Citi Field in Queens.Jacob deGrom’s age and injury history will factor into the offers he receives as a likely free agent this winter.Robert Sabo

Still: When the Dodgers spent big on free-agent rotation help, they went to Trevor Bauer in a deal worth $102 million for just three seasons. (The contract has turned disastrous for other reasons.)

How much would Cohen give deGrom for three seasons? A year after Scherzer received $130 million for three years, would $140 million be on the table?

Or is there a team out there willing to ignore the examples of Sale, Strasburg, Corbin and a litany of one-time stars and waiting to offer the Mets co-ace a deal that takes him to age 40?