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Stephen Tarpley Realizes His Full Potential

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In July 2016 general manager Brian Cashman convinced owner Hal Steinbrenner the time was right to trade Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova.

The Yankees revitalized their farm system that summer, acquiring prospects like shortstop Gleyber Torres, lefthander Justus Sheffield and outfielder Clint Frazier in those deals.

Few noticed when lefthander Stephen Tarpley turned out to be the player to be named in the deal that sent Nova to the Pirates. The Yankees also received outfielder Tito Polo in the deal.

However, Tarpley was the second pitcher acquired in that 2016 trading frenzy to reach the majors. The 25-year-old was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when rosters expanded on Sept. 1.

Reliever Ben Heller, part of the Miller deal with the Indians, was the first pitcher to be called up. He made his big league debut in 2017 but missed this year after having elbow surgery.

Tarpley suffered a case of shoulder inflammation at spring training in 2017, which prompted a move from the rotation to bullpen. That role change put him on track to possibly carve out a big league career.

"I came back as a reliever," Tarpley said. "The plan was to get me back to a starter, but long relief kind of stuck."

The Orioles drafted Tarpley out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) JC in the third round in 2013. Baltimore traded him to the Pirates for Travis Snider prior to the 2015 season.

"I figured out a nice little sinker and became a groundball pitcher and challenged myself," Tarpley said of his new role as a reliever. "I kind of figured out that was my niche. That was what was working for me and I ran with it. I stayed on the same path. My velo (92-95 mph) came back, (but it was) nothing like it used to be (at) 96-98.’’

Tarpley made 36 appearances this season for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 7-2, 1.94. He struck out 71 and walked 26 in 69.2 innings to earn a callup on Sept. 2. After giving up three runs in his first inning in the big leagues, Tarpley didn’t give up a run in the following five appearances.

While shoulder inflammation led to a role change, Tarpley believes mechanics played a larger part.

"Inflammation was a part of it, but it is just a matter of finding a routine that works for you—because you are going to have inflammation after pitching,’’ Tarpley said. "It was more like me figuring out what works for me to get me to where I want to be.’’

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Updated 2019 Top 10 Prospects Index

Ranking the top MLB prospects for every MLB team, now including updates to the Yankees, Mariners, A's and Reds.

YANKEE DOODLES

>> Thairo Estrada is headed for the Arizona Fall League, but first the shortstop was participating in instructional league in Tampa. Estrada was limited to 18 minor league games this season after getting shot in the hip last offseason in Venezuela.

>> Lefthander Justus Sheffield made his major league debut on Sept. 19 and pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the ninth inning as a reliever. His last four appearances at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were in relief with the purpose of preparing him for big league bullpen work down the stretch.

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