TCU Freshman Luken Baker Excited For First Fall Practice
TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said right-handers Mitchell Traver, Brian Howard and Luken Baker and left-hander Rex Hill will likely be the starting pitchers when the season begins Feb. 19 against Loyola Marymount.
“You want guys that can throw three pitches for strikes and have some durability,” Schlossnagle said. “Those are the guys that, whether it was in fall practice or the first couple weeks of the spring, have separated themselves.”
Traver, who struck out 77 in 76 1/3 innings last season, has the most experience on the staff. He picked up a Super Regional win in relief and started a College World Series game last season.
TCU’s expected starting pitchers each averaged a strikeout or better per inning last season at their level of competition. Two were at TCU, one in junior college, one in high school.
Howard made four starts and pitched 13 times in relief last season, going 4-0 with 46 strikeouts in 46 innings.
Baker was the Gatorade National Player of the Year in high school last season at Conroe Oak Ridge, striking out 120 in 82 innings.
Hill is a transfer from San Jacinto Junior College, where he struck out 56 in 55 1/3 innings last season. He originally signed with Texas A&M, where he redshirted in 2013. He is scheduled to start the Alumni Game on Saturday.
Schlossnagle said right-hander Jared Janczak has thrown well and that two other pitchers, right-handed junior Mitch Sewald and freshman right-hander Dalton Horton, could also start.
You want guys that can throw three pitches for strikes and have some durability. Those are the guys that, whether it was in fall practice or the first couple weeks of the spring, have separated themselves.
Schlossnagle on the top four rotation candidates
“Both guys right now can start or pitch in some sort of longer relief-type role,” Schlossnagle said. “Just about everybody else is in more of a situational-type role. We have to find the right 10 pitchers or so, and so that’s our challenge here for the next month and a half.”
Schlossnagle said he prefers to have one closer, but acknowledged that it may take time to find the right one.
Preston Guillory, who gave up one earned run in 20 relief appearances last season, appears to be the leading candidate. But Schlossnagle said freshman right-hander Durbin Feltman also could get an opportunity.
I would prefer to develop one and have a defined guy, but we’ll just see how that plays out.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle on finding a closer
“He’s got a chance to maybe pitch at the end of games or somewhere in the last third of the game,” Schlossnagle said. “I would prefer to develop one and have a defined guy, but we’ll just see how that plays out. The best teams I’ve ever been on, you’ve had defined guys. We’re going to try real hard. It may take us a month, but we’re going to try real hard to have that one person if we can.”
Riley Ferrell left last season as TCU’s all-time saves leader with 32, including 14 a year ago.
Schlossnagle said he hopes outfielder Evan Williams can be ready to play by the start of the Big 12 schedule as he recovers from a broken collarbone suffered in a car accident on the way to the Alamo Bowl.
“He’s a really important part of our team,” Schlossnagle said. “He can play all three outfield positions. He’s a really good pinch-hitter. He’s a really good base runner. He’s a senior who played a lot last year at the tail end of the season. We’re hoping he’s back by the third or fourth week, but it takes some time to work in.”
Williams, a left-handed hitter, hit .350 in 20 at-bats with three walks and three strikeouts last season. He played in 21 games and started three.
Schlossnagle said center fielder Nolan Brown, recovering from surgery for a hamate bone fracture, still has not picked up a bat and remains questionable for the season opener but might still be able to help on defense or on the bases.
“But I want to get this behind us,” Schlossnagle said. “We’re not going to push it. Plus, it gives us an opportunity to play some guys that may not get as many at-bats if Nolan was out there. It gives us a chance to see Dane Steinhagen play center field, and that’s awesome to give him experience there. And a freshman, Ryan Johnson, a corner outfielder that has just really, really impressive physical tools, it’ll let us get him out there a little more often.”
Brown, who hit .302 with 19 stolen bases last season, was slated to be the leadoff hitter this season.