TCU has reduced Mitchell Traver’s throwing because of soreness and now doesn’t expect him to pitch until May, coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
“I’d like to get him one start, maybe, before the conference tournament and then have him in the tournament and then if we’re in the postseason,” Schlossnagle said. “I was kind of hoping we might be able to use him this weekend or next, but obviously that’s a long shot right now.”
But the development of freshman left-hander Dalton Horton has helped settle the rotation in the meantime, giving TCU and Traver time.
Horton (6-0, 1.99 ERA) has allowed two runs in three starts covering 19 innings since moving to the weekend rotation. He has won all three, at Wichita State, at Kansas and last week against Oklahoma.
Combined, TCU weekend starters Luken Baker, Dalton Horton and Brian Howard are 14-2 with a 2.19 ERA and a .211 opponents’ batting average.
“We thought he was going to be pretty good,” Schlossnagle said. “We were hoping we could ease him into it. He’s a lefty that throws strikes with three pitches. When he’s really got it going, he can get some strikeouts. But something about being left-handed and tall and being able to throw low strikes allows guys to get outs. He gave up some hard-hit balls Saturday, but he definitely pitched to the situation, pitched to the ballpark. He just keeps throwing strikes.”
Horton, veteran right-hander Brian Howard and Friday starter Luken Baker all had quality starts in a sweep of Oklahoma.
Schlossnagle said Traver continues to throw, just not as much.
“He had a really good day last Monday and then was really sore after — nothing serious, just really sore,” Schlossnagle said. “We had to scale back his throwing program.”
10Sweeps of a conference series for TCU since joining the Big 12, including the past two series against Oklahoma.
Traver suffered a muscle strain in his back one week before the season opener. The senior right-hander came into the season with the most innings pitched on the staff, plus postseason experience. He was the winning pitcher with four innings of relief against Texas A&M in the Fort Worth Super Regional championship game last year and started a College World Series game.
Schlossnagle frames Traver’s return as a bonus, whenever it happens.
“If you look at Texas A&M last year, Tyler Stubblefield was one of their best pitchers and tore his ACL before the season started,” Schlossnagle said. “He was a big boost for them in the last two or three weeks of the season. We’re kind of hoping at the very least Traver can be that.”
The Big 12 tournament begins May 25. TCU has conference series remaining against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas State, plus a nonconference series at Penn State and four nonconference midweek games.
TCU is second in the Big 12 in team ERA (2.95), first in batting average against (.235), second in strikeouts (284) and first in shutouts (7).
Schlossnagle said Howard (5-1, 2.79), who pitched seven shutout innings Saturday in the second of two games against Oklahoma, will start Sunday at Oklahoma State and likely stay on Sundays. He skipped his previous turn because of soreness.
“I don’t think it matters that much,” Schlossnagle said of Howard pitching on Saturday or Sunday. “I do like the righty-lefty-righty, and again, going back to the theory that you have your best relievers normally rested with two days off going into Friday, if Luken needs some help, you have it there. I’m not going to mess with it now.”
Baker (3-1, 1.75) will start Friday, as he has since the second week of the season.
Right-hander Rex Hill (2-2, 5.71) will start Tuesday at Abilene Christian, his second consecutive midweek start.
TCU at Abilene Christian
6:30 p.m. Tuesday