Pitchers Look to Succeed in New Roles
Post-Game Column By Will Matthews
April 21, 2007
Vandy Pitchers Look to Succeed in New Roles
On the same day Corbin announced that struggling reliever Stephen Shao will slide into the rotation and make the start in Sunday's series finale against Tennessee, he brought sophomore Brett Jacobson - who had been used exclusively as a starter - out of the bullpen in a key situation Saturday with the game's outcome still very much in doubt.
The moves are indicative of a team still trying to figure out how best to get games to dominant closer Casey Weathers.
"It is important for us to figure this out in terms of our being able to win," Corbin said following his team's 4-3 triumph over Tennessee. "You have to pitch the middle innings in order to get to Weathers. If you don't do that then you don't have any shot."
Vanderbilt's pitching depth was expected to translate into solid middle relief, but several of the club's middle relievers have scuffled in recent weeks. Junior Cody Crowell has a 4.18 earned run average in 13 appearances, junior Ty Davis had a 5.48 ERA before being deactivated this weekend with and arm injury and Shao will lug a 6.04 ERA into Sunday's start.
Crowell gave up two walks and a run in 2.1 innings of work during Wednesday's loss to Middle Tennessee State, and Shao was tagged with three earned runs in 1.1. innings in Tuesday's loss to Lipscomb.
Corbin said Saturday he is hopeful that utilizing some of his pitchers in new roles will help produce the kind of results he believes they are capable of.
Shao, a senior, has been consistently dependable during his three years in the program and was one of Vanderbilt's better relievers in 2006 when he had a 3.62 ERA in 23 relief appearances.
"He has got a great resume," Corbin said of Shao. "This guy has been doing it for three years and I trust him. I watch him every single day and I know what makes him tick. And I think when you have got a guy who hasn't been successful and whose numbers don't look good, you try to do something to get that guy back to where he was. In this case we are going to make him a starter. I hope it works."
Corbin said he is hopeful that Shao's veteran experience will help him succeed in a staring spot vacated this week by sophomore Nick Christiani, who has struggled to be effective.
"There is nothing that is going to be alarming to him," Corbin said of Shao. "The only thing alarming to him is how he is pitching. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. But I'd much rather go to war with a guy who has been in this league for three or four years."
For his part, Jacobson did exactly what was expected of him in his first relief appearance of the year Saturday, coming on to start the seventh inning and recording five crucial outs to hold a 4-3 lead before deferring to Weathers with two out in the eighth.
"I think that whatever spot the coaches want me in is the spot for me," Jacobson said. "I trust them. So if they feel like I can help the team in middle relief then I am all for it. I'll just do whatever they tell me to do, but I am definitely comfortable coming out of the bullpen."
Corbin said some bullpen struggles are an invariable part of any season and that the key is getting those pitchers who are struggling to a point where they regain their confidence.
"I don't know if you can go through a year clean and not see your bullpen get beaten up at some point for whatever reason," Corbin said. "But with kids you just have to keep throwing them out there. If they get in little small car accidents, you have got to get them right back in the car and behind the wheel. They are going to fail at times and while you might get frustrated at the time, I think you win the war if you stick with them."