LAKELAND, Fla.--Last season Will Clinard made the jump from college to professional baseball look easy.
The Tigers' 19th-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt last June, the righthander dominated at short-season Connecticut, posting a 1.38 ERA with 19 strikeouts and two walks in 13 innings. He continued to roll following a promotion to low Class
A West Michigan, going 1-1, 2.96 with 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 24 innings.
Clinard's success, which included a pair of saves at each level, did not surprise Tigers minor league pitching coordinator Al Nipper.
"One thing that made him a success (in college) is that he can pitch," Nipper said. "He can spot his fastball and he has a good breaking ball."
Nipper noted that Clinard has started to close the gap in the speed of his fastball from outing to outing. At times in college, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder threw in the mid-80s, and at other times his fastball rose to the low 90s. Now the pitch sits consistently in the 89-92 mph range.
Clinard also throws a curveball and a changeup, but his out pitch is his cutter.
"At times his cutter breaks so big, people call it a slider," Nipper said. "He can throw it down and in to lefthanded hitters and away to righthanders, and he gets a lot of swings and misses with it."
Nipper said despite the 23-year-old Clinard's seamless transition, he still has things to learn.
"He's a typical polished pitcher from a highly touted college program," Nipper said. "He knows what he's doing; he's been taught very well. But the more reps he gets, the more things will become second nature to him. As he moves up the ladder, things may not come quite so easy, so he'll have to think about ways to continue to get outs in the upper levels."
• Righthander Cesar Carrillo received a 100-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Carrillo signed with the Tigers last June and spent time with high Class A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, posting a combined 3-6, 6.23 record.
• The Tigers signed righthander Justin Souza and catcher Dan Killian to minor league contracts. Souza went 3-1, 6.87 in 58 innings with Triple-A Sacramento (Athletics) last season. Killian was out of baseball last season after reaching high Class A in the Padres system in 2011.