In his first two collegiate seasons, Rio Gomez had only started two games on the mound for the Arizona Wildcats.
Through the first two weekends of his junior season, he’s matched that total.
Gomez was originally used as more of a left-handed situational guy by both Andy Lopez and Jay Johnson. But now he’s made three starts in the last three regular season weeks for this team.
“It’s fun,” Gomez said about being a starting pitcher now. “I kinda like it more than having to live on the unexpected; when to get in the pen, when to not get in the pen.”
“I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunity and keep it going.”
Moving from a relieving role to a starting role is a process, having to build your arm up more to withstand the long outings it faces.
But Rio says his arm is holding up fine.
“I think it’s doing pretty well,” he explained. “Last outing I felt a little gassed, and this outing I didn’t feel like that at all. I think that’s definitely an improvement, especially going forward and trying to go more innings next time.”
“I thought he held his stuff longer in this outing than he did last week, which was great,” head coach Jay Johnson added about the junior’s second start of the year.
Gomez was one of ten pitchers that the Arizona coaching staff had stretched out during spring practice to work towards the 90 pitch goal.
He threw 80 pitches against Eastern Kentucky in five innings, then needed just 68 against McNeese State in 5 1⁄3 innings.
“This plan was built up to go to 90 last weekend,” Johnson explained. “So he’s well within what we’ve conditioned him for.”
Through these first 10 1⁄3 innings of work in 2017, Gomez has an ERA of 2.61, and a WHIP of 0.97.
“He had a really good fall, so I’m not surprised,” junior outfielder Jared Oliva said of his classmate. “It’s kind of one of those things where last year he did well, and just kind of seeing him develop through the fall, it’s been quite impressive.”
“Obviously he’s coming out here and making pitches, and he’s a tough guy to hit,” Oliva continued. “It’s no surprise to me, but that’s just due credit. He works really hard, he’s executing his pitches.”
“It’s just a win-win.”