Knights seek solutions from relief pitchers
At least one dominant relief pitcher in the past two seasons has graced the Rutgers baseball bullpen.
Junior righthander Tyler Gebler led the bullpen his freshman year in 2010 with a 1.75 ERA and 12 saves.
Junior lefthander Rob Corsi left Duquesne to assume a relief role last year for the Scarlet Knights. He ended 2011 with a 1.57 ERA and collected the Team MVP award.
Gebler and Corsi are now starters, and two months into the season, the team continues to search for a new bullpen spearhead.
Head coach Fred Hill has utilized his options, but he does not see it coming together.
“It helps to have someone you can count on who’s going to be your main guy,” Hill said. “Right now, [junior righthanders] Charlie Law and Jerry Elsing are closers, and they’ve been in and out.”
Law and Elsing both had a bad day in Friday’s doubleheader against Connecticut.
Elsing (0-2), who has not saved a game this year since saving five last season, lost to the Huskies by allowing a walk-off single in the first game.
Law (1-3) followed by blowing a save and giving up the lead in the second game by allowing a two-run home run.
“We lost two games that we probably should have won,” Law said.
Hill has limited Law on the mound because of injury, and Law has made only 10 pitching appearances this season.
Law leads Rutgers (22-17, 8-7) with three saves, but as a part-time designated hitter, his focus is not solely on pitching.
“It’s hard work being on the field early taking your swings, or working on pitching mechanics during practice,” Law said.
Elsing struggled last year as a closer with a 7.16 ERA. The Montville High School (N.J.) product’s ERA is down to 4.50 this season, but batters have also hit .368 off of him.
The last Knight to close out a victory was junior lefthander Dan O’Neill, and he did so for three scoreless innings in Saturday’s 15-0 win against UConn.
O’Neill’s ERA is 6.62, but his versatility is an asset in the closer-by-committee bullpen. The St. Mary High School (N.J.) product has been a closer, a lefty specialist and a long reliever depending on the situation.
“He’s had some shoulder problems during the course of the season, so he hasn’t been able to pitch as much as we like,” Hill said. “But he threw strikes on Saturday, and his off-speed pitches were very good. If he can continue to do that, he’s going to get more work.”
Law, O’Neill and even Gebler have each recorded at least one of Rutgers’ six saves this season. Because of the uncertainty, Hill wants his starters on the mound as long as possible.
Junior righthander Pat O’Leary has that job today against Delaware (20-18). O’Leary is 2-0 in his first three career starts, but he has not pitched deeply into games yet.
O’Leary pitched only 5 1/3, 5 and 6 2/3 innings through his first three starts. Rutgers might need more.
“I’m going to let him go as long as he can go,” Hill said. “It all depends on the number of pitches, how well he’s pitching and what the score is.”
Assuming Rutgers uses its bullpen against the Blue Hens, Hill hopes to find a late surge this season in consistency.
“It doesn’t mean they’ll get everybody out every time, but you [have to] count on them throwing strikes,” Hill said.