Bearcats Countdown: Pitchers

Jan. 25, 2007

This is the third in a 17-day series previewing the 2007 Bearcats baseball team. Today's installment features a look at Bearcats' 2007 pitching staff.

by Shawn Sell, UC Assistant Sports Communications Director

On the heels of a 32-win campaign last year relying on a highly inexperienced group of hurlers, head coach Brian Cleary and third-year pitching coach Joe Regruth will welcome a solid group of newcomers in addition to an equally sound crop of returnees. The balance gives UC more depth on the mound than it has had in a number of years.

"One thing you always try to do is craft a pitching staff that gives you three weekend starters, a mid-week starter or combination of guys that will give chances to win those games and then some bullpen depth," Cleary says. "I think they have done that with the staff that we have assembled. One thing I am committed to this year is getting more guys on the mound early on so when we begin BIG EAST play, we have a sense of who is comfortable in what role. We also want to have guys that have had opportunities to pitch and have some success."

The anchor of the staff is hard-throwing sophomore right-hander Steve Blevins. A Freshman All-American a season ago, Blevins led the BIG EAST in innings pitched and set a school record for wins by a freshman. He will be out to build upon his initial success as the Bearcats' No. 1 starter.

Another talented sophomore, lefty Dan Osterbrock, will also be in the Bearcats' starting rotation. Osterbrock became a starter midway through last season and solidified a spot as a weekend hurler. He will be counted of for more success in 2007.

Following the two returnees is junior John Baird, a transfer from Birmingham Southern. Baird was dominant over the summer in the Great Lakes League and should vie for a rotation spot. Should any of the top three falter, UC still has regular starter from 2006 Kyle Rapp on the roster. The versatile senior lefty can also contribute at the plate for UC. Two other newcomers, junior Billy Welsh and sophomore Michael Hill, along with senior Nick Buscemi, will also be up for starting nods.

One of the biggest surprises for the Bearcats last season was the emergence of former walk-on A.J. Upton as the team's closer. Upton is joined by junior classmates Adam Calez, Matt Heber and Sean Munninghoff as viable options out of the Bearcat bullpen. A long list of newcomers will also fight for innings, including freshmen lefties Brian Garman and Kevin Johnson.

Brian Cleary talks pitching
On the weekend rotation: "Steve Blevins is clearly our ace and will start on Friday nights. Dan Osterbrock will be our Saturday guy and Sunday will hopefully be John Baird. We have some guys in different stages of getting ready to compete for that spot."

On newcomer Michael Hill: "He has been some cause of concern because he has been so good working inside. We have to look at where he will be the most effective. Some days we think starter and some days his stuff is so good, we would like to have him in the bullpen."

On the newcomers and state of the staff: "(John) Baird, (Michael) Hill, (Brian) Garman and (Billy) Welsh should make early contributions. I am not going to say we have plenty of pitching because so much of it is unproven. Heading into it, we have some depth which has been a struggle in the past. We have to see who we feel most comfortable with with the game on the line."

On junior Matt Heber: "Based on the fall he had, we are encouraged about his opportunity to step into a role when the game is close."

On college pitching as a whole: "College pitching, as much as you would like to treat it like Major League teams do with specific roles, guys are still young in terms of their baseball career. It takes experimentation to figure out who is most comfortable in what role. Different players respond differently to specific roles. Often times, it is not as simple as just plugging guys in. You have to take your best guess as to where guys will fit and may be successful. Sometimes that guess is right, sometimes it's not. One of tricks with a college staff is developing your entire staff so you have a sense of who is comfortable at what. Our hope is by the time BIG EAST play opens, we have an idea of that."