Clay surged to best season of career following promotion to Syracuse

Right-hander Caleb Clay surged to the end of the season for Triple-A Syracuse. He began the season for Double-A Harrisburg and finished well with the Chiefs, making 13 starts at each stop.

Clay finished 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 27 combined games, 26 of them starts. He had 110 strikeouts and 31 walks, allowing just 52 earned runs in 158 1/3 innings.

The last 10 games, Clay went 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA, 36 strikeouts and nine walks allowed. Clay surrendered three earned runs or less in all 10 starts, giving up three earned runs in only four of those contests.

The Birmingham, Ala., native was a workhorse. Clay was able to go six innings or more in six of those last 10 starts.

Nationals director of player development Doug Harris and the club’s minor league staff had watched Clay in the past and wanted to grab him last winter if they had the opportunity. He pitched against the Senators in 2011 and 2012, as property of the Red Sox’s Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs. But had an ERA of 7.47 and 4.61 those two campaigns - nothing like he was able to accomplish during a tremendous season with Harrisburg and Syracuse.

“He was a target guy for us as a six-year free agent going into this past offseason,” Harris said. “We had a lot of knowledge of him from his amateur days. We loved his athleticism. We really felt we could capitalize on some upside that we felt was still remaining in there.

“(Nationals minor league pitching coordinator) Spin Williams, (Harrisburg pitching coach) Paul Menhart and (Syracuse pitching coach) Greg Booker did fabulous job with him. He has been as consistent as anyone we have had this year.”

Clay has a good amount of experience and there is hope that this big season will lead to an opportunity for the right-hander in spring training next year.

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