2012 Baseball Preview: Pitchers & Catchers
Feb. 7, 2012
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - One thing is certain about Maryland's pitching staff in 2012: there is plenty of experience.
The Terps return eight of their top-11 pitchers in terms of ERA from 2011, and are set to receive a substantial boost to the starting rotation with fifth-year senior Brett Harman back in the fold after redshirting a year ago.
In addition to Harman, seniors Sander Beck, David Carroll and Michael Boyden are all back and bring a combined 71 starts to the rotation. Sophomore Brady Kirkpatrick, who spent the first two months of his freshman campaign in relief before joining the weekend rotation in the final five weeks, will be a full-time starter.
The bullpen also returns its four most important pieces from last season, with senior Korey Wacker, juniors Charlie Haslup and Jimmy Reed, and sophomore Jake Stinnett expected to receive the majority of relief innings.
So whereas last year Maryland welcomed 11 new pitchers into the program, most of whom received a substantial amount of work, the 2012 Terps will rely upon players who have spent at least one year in the program.
"We have some experienced and talented guys that have significantly improved over the last two years," said Bakich. "Now I think it's all about putting our players in the best position to have the most success."
With Harman, Beck, Carroll, Boyden and Kirkpatrick, Bakich feels he has five players capable of starting on the weekend.
Carroll, who transferred to Maryland from Western Nevada prior to the 2011 season, led the team in wins last year and had the best ERA (4.70) among starters. He was also the winning pitcher in two of the Terrapins' most memorable victories, beating No. 6 Texas in his Maryland debut and tossing 7 1/3 shutout innings in a win over No. 7 Florida State.
The 6-foot-8 right hander seemed to find his groove on Saturdays, accumulating a 5-1 record with a 2.42 ERA in eight Saturday starts. While his production declined a bit near the end of the year, a full season pitching in the ACC and a productive offseason have him ready to build on the successes of 2011.
"He's always been a good pitcher, but I think he understands more about what it takes to succeed at this level consistently and not sporadically," said Bakich. "He has put in the work this offseason to make sure his body is strong, flexible and durable."
Kirkpatrick was one of the best relievers on the team for much of the season and was promoted to a weekend starter in mid-April. In his first start in conference action, Kirkpatrick held Miami to one run in seven innings while striking out six to earn the win. He also turned in solid performances at North Carolina and against Wake Forest to close the season.
"Brady has a closer's mentality," said Bakich. "He has four pitches with good command and he's a good athlete. He's come a long way in the last year. He's developed very nicely, physically and mentally. His progression has been great."
Harman was the ace of the staff in 2010, pitching on Friday night and facing the opposition's top pitcher on a weekly basis. Despite that, he was on the mound for all five of Maryland's ACC wins, consistently pitching into the seventh or eighth inning.
He also led the team in strikeouts as a sophomore and junior, with his 91 Ks in 2010 ranking as the 10th most in the ACC. With his recovery from surgery - which he underwent in 2010 - complete, the staff is confident Harman will be able to return to top form.
"He has a competitive mean streak on the mound," said Bakich. "Don't get me wrong - he is a hard worker, he does all the things he needs to take care of his body and make sure he stays healthy. But there is another level in him, and I think that's because he's experienced winning championships. He started four games in a two-week span to win a state championship in high school. He's just a winner. He knows what it takes to win and he's going to win."
Beck and Boyden are the two hardest throwers on the team and solidify the overall strength of the rotation. After being selected in the 33rd round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft last summer, Beck chose to return for his senior season and his experience will be key - his 44 career appearances are tied for tops on the team with Harman and his 28 starts lead the team.
After transferring from Northwest Shoals Community College following his sophomore year, Boyden made 19 appearances as a junior at Maryland, including three starts.
While it remains to be seen exactly who fits in on what days, Bakich is confident that group of five starters has what it takes for Maryland to achieve its goals.
"The reason we feel good about this year is because there is consistency. There isn't tossing guys in different situations to see how they do. We have a good idea of who is going to do what and how they're going to perform."
In the bullpen, Wacker, Stinnett, Haslup and Reed represent Maryland's top four relievers in terms of ERA from last season.
Wacker had a team-best 2.73 ERA and made three saves in 17 appearances. The submarine lefty, who also started 53 games in center field, allowed just eight runs on 19 hits in 26 1/3 innings.
Stinnett was also a dual-role player, starting 40 games at third base, and is expected to have a larger role on the mound this year. He made just five appearances last year after finishing rehabilitation during the first part of the season, but was impressive in his limited action, holding opponents to a .190 batting average while earning two saves.
Reed and Haslup, meanwhile, are Maryland's most experienced relievers. The duo led the team in appearances last season with 22 and 21, respectively, with Haslup usually serving as the first option out of the pen. He'll reprise that role again this year, and Reed is in the mix to serve as closer.
Etchison, a fifth-year senior, missed the first half of last season with an injury but started 25 games in the second half and hit .253. Having spent two years at Ball State and one at Chipola Community College prior to arriving at Maryland, he is one of the most experienced players on the roster.
Cleary was Maryland's primary catcher in 2010, when he started 54 of 56 games and finished fourth on the team with a .275 batting average. Last year, he saw action in 33 games and hit .247.
With both Etchison and Cleary members of the team's leadership council, Maryland will have two skilled veterans to pair with an experienced pitching staff.