Clay, a Buford High grad, was drafted in the fourth round by Minnesota in 2014 after a standout sophomore season at Tech. A lefty, Clay worked his way up the Twins chain, leading the minor leagues in groundball rate in 2019 (his most recent season in the minors, as there was no minor-league play in 2020) with no home runs allowed. Opposing hitters also hit .283 off him at Triple-A in 2019.
After the 2020 season, the Twins didn’t add him to their 40-man roster, allowing Clay to become a free agent. Expecting another team to sign him to a minor-league contract, Washington signed him to a major-league deal in November, an agreement that he said at the time “shell-shocked” him.
Clay was to start the season at Triple-A, but was called up when the Nationals were shorthanded by positive COVID-19 tests and quarantines. All of which led to his Wednesday debut, with his father, sister, brother, girlfriend and a family friend in the stands.
“It doesn’t matter how many people are there; I can hear my dad in the crowd over anybody,” Clay said.
After Acuna got on base, Clay got a ground out from Ozzie Albies, Then Clay fell behind Freeman 3-0 before striking him out looking with a breaking ball.
“It felt pretty good to get the first strikeout, especially against such a great hitter like Freddie,” Clay said.
He likewise got in a 3-0 hole to Ozuna before striking him out swinging with another breaking ball for the last out of the inning.
“It’s a great moment,” Clay said. “It took a long time to get here. I’m just very glad I could get this first one out of the way. Keep working hard, keep building on what I’ve done so far.”
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