Thursday, October 22, 2015

Royal Clayton, Well-Kept - 23

Originally published Sept. 20, 2011
Royal Clayton took a no-hitter into the sixth for the AA Albany-Colonie Yankees in August 1989. The bid didn't work out, but it was a performance his manager Buck Showalter told The Schenectady Gazette showed Clayton's professional approach to the game.

"Royal Clayton is a very well-kept secret," Showalter told The Gazette after that game. "I think he has as good a chance to pitch in the big leagues as anyone here. Just because he doesn't have a trick pitch, or throw 100 miles an hour, some people think he's just another guy."

While Clayton did well in that game, and the year, going 16-4, he didn't get his chance to pitch in the big leagues.

Later, though, he did get to help mold young pitchers to get them to the big leagues, including helping the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb on his way to the bigs.

Clayton's career began in 1987, taken by the Yankees in the 18th round out of the University of California-Riverside. He played that year at rookie ball, short-season Oneonta and single-A Fort Lauderdale. Between the three levels, he pitched 51.2 innings with an ERA of 4.18.

Going into 1988, Clayton's younger brother and future major leaguer Royce Clayton, still in high school, talked about his relationship with his brother to The Los Angeles Times.

"He's had a tough time in the minors," Royce Clayton told The Times that April. "He's stuck it out even though he hasn't gotten his shot yet. But he's always helped me out and I've always looked up to him."

But that tough time turned a little better that year in 1988. Royal Clayton split the season between Fort Lauderdale and single-A Prince William. He went 9-7, with a 2.07 ERA on the year.

For 1989, Clayton moved to AA Albany-Colonie and did even better. Along with those 16 wins, Clayton posted a 2.98 ERA. He got his 11th win in July, a 6-4 win where he gave up three runs in the ninth inning.

"I'm a ground ball pitcher, and a couple of them got through in the ninth," Clayton told The Gazette. "But if I make a bad pitch, and they hit it, I can't do anything about it."

Clayton returned to Albany for 21 more starts in 1990, going 10-9, with a 3.18 ERA. He also got four starts at AAA Columbus. Clayton returned to Columbus for 1991 and for each year through 1994. He never made the Bronx.

Clayton pitched briefly in 1995 and 1996 in the Giants and Orioles organizations, before ending his playing career in 1997 with independent Lubbock.

He soon became a coach in the Diamondbacks' system. In July 2008, Clayton recalled to ESPN The Magazine watching young Arizona prospect Brandon Webb throw two-seam fastballs at single-A South Bend in 2000.

"That's going to be a good pitch for you," Clayton told Webb, The Magazine wrote. "When we go to spring training next year, we're going to work on that."

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