Deliver some good news for a change, mmk Jimmy?
Well, after the potentially devastating news about Matt Purke's shoulder troubles and his visit to the dreaded Dr. James Andrews today (has that guy EVER delivered good news?), clearly the TCU pitching staff has some adjustments to make. I've mentioned in previous posts that the lack of depth in the rotation is a serious concern, and obviously this make things much, much more troubling for a staff that outside of 4 or 5 guys has been woefully inconsistent this season. So I'll do my best to speculate what I think could potentially happen with 5 games in the next 6 days, including a HUGE mid-week rematch against the Sooners. I'm far from an expert on the issue, but I'll give my guess as to how we handle these next few games and potentially the long run without ace Matt Purke in his Saturday spot.
Andrew Mitchell's performance last night couldn't have come at a better time and in a bigger game, but unfortunately by throwing nearly 90 pitches last night, I wouldn't expect to see him this weekend at all. He's a freshman and we do not want to overextend a young pitcher who should be the ace of this staff for the next couple seasons. Since the UNLV series is being played Thursday, Friday, Saturday (great timing, Easter), that kind of screws up the ability to move Steven Maxwell up a day in the rotation, since now it would become 2 days, so expect him to stay at the back end of the weekend rotation. The real question is who do we go to on Friday? I'd guess we go back to the dreaded Erik Miller, since he will be the freshest of the remaining arms we have, but Stefan Crichton could also fill that void, however, it appears that he is assuming the closer's role (for now).
*Weekend rotation just announced- Winkler Thursday, Miller Friday, Maxwell Saturday.
The Frogs will have Sunday off before a rematch against Dallas Baptist in Dallas, a team that already beat TCU this season and has been a thorn in their side for the past few years. Obviously, you'd like to have someone throwing here with experience and a track record of success, but really our options become very, very limited with the much more important game v. OU at Lupton Stadium the following night. Crichton started against them in the first outing and allowed 0 earned over 4.1 innings, and I think he's the likely candidate to start that game again unless he gets overextended out of the bullpen this weekend, which is a definite possibility with Miller going Friday. Also, don't rule out a return appearance from rarely used freshman Nick Frey, who had an impressive start against UT Pan American, but a not so impressive second outing in relief against OU. Another wildcard option is highly touted freshman Tony Rizzotti, who has only appeared in 4 games and his numbers are far from impressive, but beggars can't be choosers when we are in the situation we are in.
The Tuesday night contest against OU will be another start for Andrew Mitchell, who has become as reliable as anyone on our staff this season, although his 1 inning, 3 run relief appearance against OU a couple weeks ago was by far his worst outing of the season. Hopefully he turns it around this time and keeps the OU bats silent and we get the win. Assuming Purke is out for an extended period of time (which I do assume, since he's seeing James Andrews), Mitchell will eventually have to work his way into the weekend rotation because I don't think Erik Miller is a guy we can trust there right now. Maybe the "promotion" will actually help Miller, but that's wishful thinking. I don't know how we'll be able to transition Mitchell into the Saturday or Sunday starter, but I think it's inevitable and needs to be done to give this team it's best chance to win conference games and weekend series'.
Another guy who could become a key contributor and huge factor in saving some arms is reliever Trent Appleby. Appleby has been solid all year, and pretty much his whole career at TCU, so he is going to be expected to be able to work a few innings on several occasions when we are in tight spots. Let's hope he can continue to stymie hitters with his wacky sidearm delivery, heavy sinking fastball, and slow breaking slider. Other guys that will need to step their game up out of the bullpen and get outs for us at times will be Kyle Starratt, Teddy Nowell, and Tyler Duffie, 3 guys who pitched a little bit earlier in the season but have fallen to the back of the bullpen lately. Starratt has 1 start under his belt this year, so don't rule him out for a potential weekday start as well. Nowell, who has a 13.50 era in only 2.2 innings pitched this year, now becomes the only lefty we have on our pitching staff. Not. Good.
Hopefully as I'm writing this whole breakdown of our pitching staff, someone like Stefan Stevenson is breaking in with news that Purke has tendinitis and will be out for 2 weeks or so, but like I've mentioned several times, I'm very skeptical of the visit to Dr. James Andrews, and don't think that bodes well for Purke. Honestly I don't know how the rotation will shake out, but let's hope that the young arms continue to pitch as well as they have been and that someone emerges late in the season out of the bullpen to eat some quality innings.