Mississippi State's bullpen was phenomenal down the stretch last season. If they could duplicate that production, I'll take it in a heartbeat. But that will be very hard to do - still, this is an excellent group.
Caleb Reed, Taylor Stark, Tanner Gaines and Nick Routt (occasional starter) are gone from the bullpen, and enter several pitchers that, I'll be honest, I know nothing about. But we can talk about what we do know.
Anchoring the 'pen will once again be Johnathon Holder. As a true freshman last season, he started his career by breaking the MSU record for consecutive scoreless innings with 27.1, before giving up a run in his final appearance in the Regional. He also tallied nine saves, and wrestled the closer role away from preseason All-American Caleb Reed who actually hadn't done that much to lose it. But Holder was just that good, an incredible year with a 0.32 E.R.A. with 30 strikeouts and 5 walks.
Ben Bracewell was actually the Friday night starter during the non-conference schedule last year until he got hurt. At that point Chris Stratton came in from the bullpen and the rest is history. Once he came back, Bracewell was very effective, pitching some key innings in the SEC Tournament. He ended the year with a 0.93 E.R.A. in just over 19 innings pitched. He's got closer stuff, and will be a very good right-handed set-up man.
Seemingly lost among the SEC's best staff last year was the outstanding left-handed set-up man, Ross Mitchell. His 9 2/3 scoreless innings during the SEC Tournament were a thing of beauty, and he finished his freshman year with a 1.18 E.R.A. over 24 games and 38 innings.
Luis Pollorena - everybody's favorite Diamond Dawg. For a while it was like, 'where's Pollo?' because he wasn't playing much, but seemingly every time he pitched he did well. Another soft-tossing lefty, but a good one, who ended last year with a 1.85 E.R.A. He'll be a senior this spring, and will likely be a jack of all trades yet again, but the bullpen is his sweet spot.
A guy with a potential to break out is senior RHP Chad Girodo. He hasn't really done much in his previous three years in Starkville as he posted the highest E.R.A. (5.87) on the team in 2012, and has a 6.70 career mark, but he tore it up in his summer league with a 0.99 E.R.A. in 27 innings, and 44 strikeouts.
Position players pitching (remember Mitch Moreland)
- There was some talk about Daryl Norris putting more focus on his pitching this year than his hitting, but that seems to have gone out the window. He didn't pitch at all last year, although he was hampered by some injuries. In 2011 Norris was 2-0 with a 3.20 E.R.A. in 25.1 IP. I look for him to come into some mid-week games and infrequently come in for a tight spot during a SEC contest.
- C.T. Bradford was poised to log some innings last season but went down not once but twice with the same injury, so he only managed one poor start in a mid-week game and one relief appearance. He pitched eight innings his freshman year. All told his career E.R.A. is approaching 10.00 in only 10 IP, but he is better than that. Could be a good guy to go to for a quick left-handed batter late in a game without having to burn a player (since he'd just come in from CF and go back out there).
- Hunter Renfroe's big outfield arm could come to the mound as well. Like Norris, Renfroe did not pitch last season, but in 2011 he threw 4.2 innings, giving up 5 runs. There's probably a less likelihood of him pitching than Norris, but he could come in to throw some heat if need be.
Bullpen or starter?
- Evan Mitchell is a guy who has great stuff, and at any point in time you never know if it's all going to click and he'll be lights out. He'll be right in there competing for a weekend spot, which he has held previously. If not, he's another solid arm from the right side.
- Will Cox made a number of mid-week starts as a freshman in 2012, and he'll be pushing for a weekend spot this year. He only made one relief appearance last year so I'm not sure if Cohen will put him in the bullpen or not.
- Trevor Fitts is another righty looking to get into that starting rotation, and he has an awful mustache in his portrait
Overall this is a really solid bullpen. And you never know if a freshman coming in will pop up and surprise some folks - if they do, that's just gravy. John Cohen has assembled so many quality arms here, and hopefully they'll be able to continue their excellence under Butch Thompson.