Changes Coming to Weekend RotationApril 19, 2018
Auburn Baseball looks to make changes to the weekend pitching rotation as they prepare for a three-game SEC series against Alabama this weekend in Tuscaloosa
In his postgame press conference following last Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Mississippi State, Head Coach Butch Thompson was asked if changes were coming to the weekend rotation following another tough showing from starting pitcher Davis Daniel, who surrendered five runs to the Bulldogs, all five scoring with two outs in the inning. Thompson provided a very honest response.
“I think that’s something that we will be proactive (about), and do something,” said Thompson, who was asked if changing Daniel’s role would be a “knee-jerk” reaction. Thompson also mentioned that he would not make the change without a thorough discussion with his players and assistant coaches.
The weekend rotation for the Alabama series was announced Thursday afternoon. Ace Casey Mize will start in his usual spot on Friday night, with freshman Tanner Burns moving to the Saturday slot. Daniel’s name was not listed, instead, we see “TBA.”
In his weekly visit with Andy Burcham on the “This Week in Auburn Baseball” podcast from the Auburn Sports Network, Thompson discussed what Davis means to the program, and how he will be used in the near future.
“(Daniel) has been a been a conference rotation pitcher for us since he stepped on campus. But you’re always, as a coach, thinking about what’s the best rhythm of the team, what’s the best for the development of the player. We are not at a “development stage” of the season, the way that you are all fall and in non-conference. Davis is so talented and has so much skill, that he is a vital part of our pitching staff, we may just need to put him into a different role. I could see him coming out of the bullpen in some aspect.”
Prediction: Andrew Mitchell
I’m solely basing this prediction on experience. The senior from New Orleans has started seven games in his Auburn career, most recently against Alabama A&M where he allowed a run on two hits in one complete inning of work in Auburn’s 19-5 win over the Bulldogs on April 3.
Thompson also mentioned during his interview with Andy Burcham that Daniel could get some solid innings out of the bullpen on the day that he would have been scheduled. With Tanner Burns taking the hill on Saturday, Davis could take over in the middle innings in Sunday’s finale which could be positive for the Auburn bullpen, and would not force Mitchell, who is used primarily as a reliever, to throw more than he is used to. Calvin Coker did not pitch in the Mississippi State series. Instead, he got the start against UAB on Tuesday and pitched four innings. If Coker needs to pitch a couple of innings on either Friday or Saturday, then having a guy like Daniel who can give you more than three innings will ease the stress of the Auburn bullpen. Plus, we saw that Cody Greenhill can give you four-plus innings if needed.
While it is never easy to see a starter’s role change, this could be good for Auburn. As a team that has struggled offensively in conference play, the pressure intensifies for the pitching staff, and how they can limit their opponent’s offensive output. Last weekend, Casey Mize tossed a complete game. I do not expect him to repeat the performance, just due to next weekend’s series with Florida beginning on Thursday, rather than Friday. Tanner Burns could give us six innings on Saturday, with two, maybe three pitchers being used in relief. Then, if Mitchell can go at least four innings on Sunday, Daniel could carry the load until the final innings arrive. Auburn has to be careful, though. The Tigers have had struggles with the Crimson Tide outside of the Capital City Classic, including a three-game sweep at Plainsman Park last season.