Over the weekend I got to catch up with Double-A bullpen arm, Eric Yardley. For those unfamiliar, the Padres signed Yardley to a minor league contract back in July of 2013. East Village Times’ contributors have two previous interviews with Yardley, but I got the chance to talk to him after almost a year since the last interview.
This season, Yardley has been on an absolute tear. He’s currently holding a 3-0 record with a 2.25 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched. Yardley has only allowed nine runs to score this entire season, six of which came in the opening month of April. Since then he has only given up a single run in three of his last 19 appearances. He holds a strong 31:8 walk-strikeout ratio and a solid 1.03 WHIP.
Last season, Yardley was called up to Triple-A El Paso in early June. With such a strong start to the season, I asked him if there were any thoughts or confidence in him getting that call to re-join the Chihuahuas sometime soon. To which he responded, “I honestly couldn’t tell you…[the thought of getting called up] always makes the season a lot harder.” He added, “This game is stressful enough, thinking about that stuff outside of the field and the clubhouse just adds to it.”
No doubt the position of a relief pitcher, especially in the minor leagues, is one of the most stressful positions on the field. Though Yardley has not let that effect either his game nor his confidence when taking the mound.
If you didn’t read the last interview, Yardley touched on the thoughts he had near the end of his collegiate career. He had thought once college ended, so would baseball. Yet, over four years later, Eric Yardley is a part of one of the best pitching teams in all of Double-A and has recently been named to the Texas Southern League All-Star Team.
Yardley had said that since the end of his college career, “It has been a very unexpected, but fun ride. I just want to keep it going as long as I can!”
Yardley was a part of the 2015 Cal League All-Star team, where he was the sole representative for the Lake Elsinore Storm that season. I asked Yardley if playing alongside guys who you go up against week after week added any advantage once everyone returned to the clubhouse. But unless players are openly talking about their struggles, the All-Star clubhouse is more about making friendships than anything. In fact, one thing he mentioned about that 2015 Cal League All-Star game was that Stephen McGee, who at the time played for the Inland Empire 66ers, was the one who caught his inning. Now, McGee is sitting alongside Yardley and the rest off the Missions in the San Antonio clubhouse just two years later.
If you haven’t been following San Antonio, they just clinched their division for the first half of the Texas League season. What that means is that at the end of the year, the Missions are guaranteed a playoff spot. This will be the first time the Missions find themselves in the postseason since 2013 and the first time the team has clinched either half of the division since 2011.
Yardley was talking about the clubhouse and said, “This team has grown as close as it could be,” he added, “Most of us were together in Lake Elsinore and also shared last season together as well. This team is a completely different team from last year.” Yardley mentioned that a few of the guys were also part of the El Paso championship run last season and the growth from that experience has helped the teams winning mentality and morale within the locker room.
Yardley said that being a part of that championship team has been one of the most exciting and beneficial times during his time in the Padres’ system. He mentioned, “That environment is not something that can be recreated.” He went on to talk about how living through that definitely has helped him grow his game and his relationships along with all the guys who were a part of that team.
The conversation kind of shifted a little bit after that when I asked Yardley about his home and away splits. He holds a 1-0 record and 2.79 ERA, and has also given up 20 hits and struck out 14 batters in 19.1 innings pitched at home. When on the road, Yardley holds a 2-0 record with a 1.67 ERA and has only allowed nine hits while striking out 17 in just 16.2 innings.
This split goes even deeper when you look at last year’s stats while he was with El Paso. His home ERA was 4.13 and his road ERA was 1.42. But last year Yardley had a couple of games at home when he was rocked for a lot of runs and that skewed the numbers some.
On those numbers, Yardley said, “There’s no real different mentality when pitching at home or on the road. I’m not going into a game freaking out because I’m playing at home. I just want to go out there and put up zeros [in the box score].”
The more zeros, the more appearances for the rising all-star.
In fact, at the start of every season Yardley sets a goal for himself: to lead the team in appearances. Obviously the more appearances you have, the more coaches trust you and the more opportunities you have to prove yourself.
Without a doubt, Eric Yardley has been coming out of the bullpen firing on all cylinders. With the Padres in rebuild mode and rumors of multiple bullpen guys at the major league level looking to be moved, it’s very likely we could be seeing Yardley and his sidearm release in Petco Park sometime soon.