Arizona baseball 2014 preview: The Pitching Staff

Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

A lot of faces return from last year's staff, but is that a good thing?

Many of the pitchers Arizona fans should expect to see are familiar names like James Farris, Tyler Crawford, and Mat Troupe.

But is this a good thing?

Time will tell

Key losses:

Konner Wade (MLB Draft - Rockies), Augey Bill (MLB Draft - Orioles), Nick Cunningham (MLB Draft - Orioles)

Key returners:

James Farris (5-5, 4.18 ERA in 2013), Tyler Crawford (7-2, 3.83 ERA), Mat Troupe (6-0, 9 saves), Tyger Talley (4-0, 3.82 ERA), Cody Moffett (2-2, 3.13 ERA)

Key newcomers:

Morgan Earman (Desert Christian Academy, Palm Desert, CA), Evan Hebert (Loreauville HS, Loreauville, LA), Austin Schnabel (Notre Dame Prep, Scottsdale, AZ), Cody Hamlin (Sophomore - Western Nevada College), Luke Soroko (Valencia HS, Valencia, CA), Bobby Dalbec (Legend HS, Parker, CO)

The main change is going to be at closer, with Tyger Talley taking over the duties from Mathew Troupe. Troupe will be headed to the starting rotation eventually, but will not start the season due to some inflammation in his throwing elbow.

"He's still on a pitch limit," said head coach Andy Lopez. "If I have my way, he'll throw a really good bullpen (Tuesday), and then we might give him a two-inning stint this weekend to see how he's feeling again, and then he'll start on Tuesday or Wednesday."

"He started feeling something in his elbow, so they shut him down. He had an MRI and there is something there, but as medical people will tell you, everybody's got something."

"He was 88-89 MPH Saturday for 55 pitches, so I'm optimistic he's going in the right direction. He didn't have a fall, and a really sporadic January. If you told me these next three games get you in the postseason, we're pitching him, but we've got a long ways to go and he's too valuable."

"My hope's that he'll start on Saturday down the road," said coach Lopez. That would bump Crawford to Sunday, where he had an enormous amount of success last year.

For this first weekend against Kent State, Lopez says the rotation will be James Farris on Friday, Tyler Crawford on Saturday, and Cody Hamlin on Sunday, with Talley closing.

I am a huge fan of Talley taking over the closing duties. Whenever he's on the mound, he has that closer aura about him, and there should be a ton of success this year for him in that role.

Also expect Cody Moffett to start mid-week games to start the season, and challenge for that third starter spot while Troupe's status is still up in the air. Coach Lopez also has Austin Schnabel as a potential candidate for those midweek games. Morgan Earman as well.

All these options give Arizona some depth at middle-reliever, which would be great. Of course, that depth was supposed to be there last year, but certain guys have bad outings to start the season, and the coaching staff never goes back to them.

One surprise during the last few weeks of practice has been Luke Soroko.

"He's not a hard-thrower, but every time he's gone out he's gotten people out," said coach Lopez. "He just keeps getting outs."

"I played with his dad at UCLA, so that makes me feel old. But he's done a real good job. Every time you run him out he gets his two innings in and no one scored. What the heck?"

Augey Bill last year was not a hard-thrower, and while a lot taller than the 6' 0" Soroko, still led the team in ERA at 1.98, so maybe Soroko is this year's Augey Bill.

Last but certainly not least is Bobby Dalbec. Dalbec will be a guy that starts the game at a corner infield spot, and come in to pitch in the 7th or 8th innings, setting up Talley. Cal State Fullerton's Michael Lorenzen stands out as a similar guy last year, who played centerfield and then would close games for the Titans.

Dalbec is ready for the challenge though.

"It's obviously a challenge coming from high school," said Dalbec. "But it's been fun."

"My junior year I closed one game," Dalbec said about his pitching experience. "Other than that I was a starter all through high school. I closed last summer all summer, and I've been closing all fall, so I'm comfortable with it."

Coming in to pitch after playing the field the entire game presents another set of issues on its own, like the change in mental attitude.

"The games are always intense here no matter who you're playing," continued Dalbec. "I just have to be aggressive, go out there and get outs. Just like hitting, just have to go out there and make plays."

Dalbec brings a fastball that sits in the low 90s, but said that "maybe with some adrenaline I'll bump it up to 94 if I can". He also has a cutter and changeup, which he says is a "pretty good pitch".

The coaching staff and some of the veteran guys seem to be really excited about this group of freshmen coming in, and hopefully that pays off on a pitching staff where they'll need to step up. Personally, I can't wait to see Dalbec come trotting to the mound from third base. That'll be fun.

There's a lot of pressure on this staff after last year's downfall, especially on Farris, so it'll be interesting to see how they respond to the pressure.

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