By: Brian Frank
Ernie Clement’s success with the Bisons earlier this season led to his call up to Toronto, where he’s been contributing to a Blue Jays team currently sitting in a wild card spot in the American League playoff race.
Clement slashed .329/.411/.525 with six home runs in 39 games for the Bisons. In seven games with the Blue Jays, he’s slashed .429/.375/.429.
Clement at Rogers Centre. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Being ready at a moment’s notice is one of the biggest challenges for someone used to playing every day in Triple-A, who is thrust into a utility role in the big leagues. That transition hasn’t seemed to have phased Clement.
“We do a lot of preparation in the cages, mental prep, and looking at pitchers,” Clement said in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles at Rogers Centre. “I just try to make it all as challenging on myself as possible before the game, so that the game can kind of slows down a little bit. Even if you haven’t been in there in a long time, you’re still ready to go and mentally ready to go. I work constantly throughout the game to make sure we’re ready for any situation.”
He's also been very successful in his career in a pinch-hitting role, hitting .300 in twelve major-league pinch-hitting appearances.
“You’ve got to be locked in from the first pitch,” the Rochester, NY, native explained of his success. “You don’t have any time to get loose or ready. You’ve got to go in there ready to go. I take pride in my preparation and being ready for any situation. I’m willing to do whatever the team needs and in any situation, I’m ready.”
Clement is hitting .300 in his career as a pinch-hitter. Photo Credit, Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
In a game last week against the Miami Marlins, Clement pinch-hit with a runner at second base and one out in the eighth inning of a scoreless game. He promptly lined a single into center field to give Toronto the lead – and then came around to score on George Springer’s single to put the Blue Jays in front 2-0, which would be the final score.
“I was just kind of waiting for a chance to help the team,” Clement said. “I’m just glad I came through for these guys.”
Not only has Clement played second base and shortstop for Toronto this season – he’s also pitched an inning. Last week, during a lopsided loss to the Marlins, he took the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning to help save the Blue Jays bullpen. It’s a position that Clement isn’t completely unfamiliar with – he also toed the rubber in two games for the Guardians last season, but that was the first time he’d pitched since he was playing little league in Rochester.
“The first thing is that you’ve got to throw strikes,” he said of his strategy when he takes the mound. “You don’t want to be out there walking people or hitting people like I did the other night. Just trying to change speeds and hope they hit it hard right at somebody – because they’re major-league baseball hitters and they’re really good at what they do. But I just try to enjoy it. Whatever it takes to help the team.”
Clement taking infield alongside Bo Bichette. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Clement is also a big college baseball fan, having starred at the University of Virginia from 2015 to 2017. The Cavaliers won the College World Series his freshman year. That season, he had an incredible NCAA tournament, recording the go-ahead hit in three of UVA’s 10 tournament wins. He went 7-for-24 (.292) in Omaha and was named to the All-College World Series Team.
Now a member of UVA’s Baseball Hall of Fame, Clement enjoyed watching this year’s Cavaliers squad that won the Charlottesville Super Regional before ultimately falling in the College World Series in Omaha.
“They had an unbelievable season,” he said. “It was really fun to watch them. They’ve got some really good players. Those coaches did a lot for me, so I really enjoy watching them do well.”
The college baseball playoffs became a widely discussed topic in the Blue Jays clubhouse.
“Yeah, because we had a couple guys who had teams in the World Series,” Clement said. “So just a little banter back and forth. I know Romey (Jordan Romano) had Oral Roberts in there. I think Whit (Merrifield) was rooting for Wake Forest, so we had some guys that had some connections.”
Clement slashed .329/.411/.525 in 39 games for the Bisons. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
At the time of the interview, Toronto was 5-8 in its previous 13 games. When asked what the Blue Jays need to do to play up to expectations, Clement responded: “We’re just going to rally around each other. You’ve got to rely on your teammates. This is the ultimate team game, so we’re just going to rely on each other, weather the storm, and get on a roll.”
“It’s only a matter of time. This is a truly talented team and we have guys who know how to win. So we’ll get it going.”
They’ve now won back-to-back games by a cumulative score of 19-4, so it seems they may be doing just that.
This is the second Conversations with the Herd with Ernie Clement this season. To read the first, click here.