2011 Husky Baseball Preview: Pitchers & Catchers
Feb. 4, 2011
The 2011 Washington baseball season gets underway in just two weeks, when the Dawgs travel to San Marcos, Texas, for a three-game tournament Feb. 18-20. Here is the first of a two-part season preview. In this edition, we'll run down the pitchers and catchers. In the forthcoming second portion, we'll meet the infielders and outfielders.
The 2011 Husky baseball squad includes a lot of new names and faces as second-year head coach Lindsay Meggs continues to build his program. The 35-man roster includes 21 newcomers (plus another who redshirted last season after transferring) and 13 returning lettermen.
That roster makeup presents both challenges and positives, but in any case, it should make things interesting as the team develops a personality and style.
Coach Meggs is hopeful that the influx of talent will lead to more depth and, in turn, increased success on the field.
"The positives are that the guys that we have back in the program who are returners from last year are guys who have bought in to what we're trying to do," Meggs explained. "And that is to really improve our pitching and to invest in pitching, defense and timely hitting.
"Even though we play in an offensive ballpark, with the new bats and with the amount of quality pitching in college baseball, it's tough to try to win games 9 to 8," he continued. "We want to pitch and play defense. We've preached that from the beginning and that's where we've invested our scholarships primarily in the off-season. I think guys are understanding that if we can improve in those two areas, we can be in every game."
The big number of newcomers also gives the coaches something closer with a blank tablet to work with as Meggs and his staff institute their system and style.
"It's easier because you're not trying to change the culture; you're trying to build the culture," Meggs said. "You're not trying to break old habits. You're trying to educate and kind of start with a clean slate. I've been happy with our returning guys and the example they've set."
All of that said, the UW pitching staff is clearly the more experienced segment of the team, as compared to the position players. Washington returns six pitchers who combined for 70 percent of the innings pitched last year. Among that group are three of four most oft-used starters from last year, as well as the pitchers who accounted for all 16 saves in 2010.
Even with that returning group, opportunities abound for the 12 newcomers on the mound. Here's a look:
2011 UW Pitching Staff
Not unusually, the Huskies will enter the early portion of the season looking to answer some questions as to how the pitching staff, and most notably the weekend rotation, will set up. Coach Meggs has a lot of options to work with during the weeks leading up to the Pac-10 Conference opener vs. UCLA on April 1.
"The rotation is going to be interesting because we have a few different ways we can go," Meggs said. "Our goal would be that by the time we begin conference play, to really have identified the main guys. We have about five guys we think can start on the weekend for us, but by the time we hit that first conference weekend, we'd like to know which three of those guys really stand out."
Several of those veteran returns figure into the mix. Fifth-year right-hander Jacob Clem, who was utilized exclusively out of the bullpen last season, will get a look in the rotation. In 2010, he worked 65.2 innings over 30 relief outings, compiling a 3.70 earned run average and six saves.
Junior Andrew Kittredge has been a weekend starter for the better part of his two prior seasons in the Purple and Gold. Last year, he pitched a team-high 91 innings, striking out 97. Senior Geoff Brown, second on the UW's career appearances list, has seen time as a starter and reliever during his career. He could pitch in either role this year, if not both.
Aaron West started five games as a freshman in 2009 and three last year before undergoing season-ending surgery. His recovery will dictate how soon he might be able to start, but Meggs believes that he'll be able to pitch in some capacity at or near the start of the season.
Several newcomers also figure in as potential starters.
"Michael Garber, a transfer from Sierra College, has been outstanding," Meggs said. " Freshman Austin Voth is somebody that we think can also step in there. And there's also a freshman, Jeff Brigham, who has starter stuff."
Moving to the end of the game, Meggs also has numerous options for the closer role. Sophomore side-armer Adam Cimber pitched in 31 games last year, notching six saves. He's a clear candidate.
"If we were to talk about who has closer stuff and closer makeup," explained Meggs, "Adam Cimber is someone who is so unorthodox that, for one inning, you know he's going to be effective in that role. And some of the guys we talked about as potential starters who would be outstanding in that closer role."
Meggs also pointed to Garber and Brigham as the types of pitchers who could emerge as late-inning specialists, depending on how things shake out.
"We just have to shuffle the deck," he said, "and when you're talking about freshmen and you're talking about closing, the makeup part is so dramatic, that you really have to see, in a game situation, who has that kind of makeup. So that might be a work in progress."
As for the other innings out of the bullpen, there should be a lot of competition with so many young arms. As one of just three left-handers on the squad, fifth-year senior Ben Guidos has a lot of experience. On the newcomer side of things, Meggs highlighted JC transfer Terik Gofinch and freshmen Jeff Gonzales and Tyler Kane, who while also listed as an infielder, will work primarily as a pitcher in the early-going of his UW career.
At least in terms of playing at the Pac-10 level, the Husky catchers enter the year with very little experience. Only sophomore Chase Anselment, who saw time as an outfielder and designated hitter much more so than at catcher last year, has worn the gear in a major college game. But with the addition of an experienced junior college backstop and two freshmen, the UW has options.
"During the course of the fall, B.K. Santy was a little bit ahead of the curve, defensively," Coach Meggs said. "By the end of the fall and through our workouts, he stood out as the best defensive catcher. He's got the most experience. If we took the field today, we'd be very comfortable with him there."
Santy was an all-league catcher who batted .312 at powerful Palomar College near San Diego last year.
"Ryan Wiggins is going to be a very good player," Meggs said of the true freshman from West Seattle. "He's a very physical from the right side of the plate and is getting better every day defensively."
As for Anselment, he could easily continue to see time in right field and/or at DH. With his .347 average and terrific power potential, his bat will find him a spot in the lineup more often than not.
"Chase is the wild card because you have to have him in the lineup somewhere," Meggs said. "He's a solid catcher and getting better, and he can always play right field. You'll see him in both spots."