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Pitcher re-enters bullpen role from freshman year

<p>Junior righthander Tyler Gebler will pitch out of relief this weekend at Florida?Atlantic. Gebler missed two of three series this season because of arm tightness.</p>

Junior righthander Tyler Gebler will pitch out of relief this weekend at Florida?Atlantic. Gebler missed two of three series this season because of arm tightness.

Tyler Gebler watched No. 9 Georgia Tech sweep the Rutgers baseball team last weekend in a series of sporadic production from his fellow pitchers.

But the junior righthander saw it all from his computer.

Gebler stayed home from Atlanta because of arm tightness — he missed two of the Scarlet Knights’ three series for that reason — but Gebler is tired of missing time.

In the upcoming series that begins tomorrow at Florida Atlantic, Gebler will be a relief pitcher.

“I was hoping to be healthy for last weekend, but we had kind of a step back,” Gebler said. “We’re going to take it slower this time — definitely a long-term thing.”

Gebler has only appeared in one game all season, a no-decision Feb. 24 against Old Dominion. He stumbles into a Knights bullpen that needs help, having given up 10 earned runs to the Monarchs.

“We have to get our bullpen squared away,” said head coach Fred Hill. “What we had trouble with all weekend was really the latter innings.”

Gebler could be exactly what the Rutgers bullpen needs. The Toms River South High School product closed for the Knights his freshman year, concluding with a 1.75 ERA and 12 saves.

The Knights’ bullpen includes four pitchers with more than one appearance so far this year. Only junior closer Jerry Elsing sports an ERA lower than 4.76.

Gebler can fill an immediate need for relief pitching, but he said the team’s focus on him is preparing for March 23, when conference play begins.

“You have to look at the big picture,” Gebler said. “We’re looking to compete in the Big East, so my goal is to get healthy.”

Junior catcher Jeff Melillo also watched one of the Knights’ losses. Melillo rested in Sunday’s 6-3 loss.

The Knights only walked twice in that game. Melillo struggled against Georgia Tech pitching, not walking at all in the series.

Melillo, the usual cleanup hitter, said the lineup needs to work on plate discipline and working the count.

“We’ve been working in practice on two-strike approach hitting,” he said. “We just battle in there and not necessarily change anyone’s swings, but change everyone’s approach while hitting to battle more and work deep into the count to try to gain walks and eliminate strikeouts.”

Florida Atlantic (8-5) is not the No. 9 team in the nation, but the Owls’ pitching staff cannot be underestimated. Its ERA is 3.79. It was even lower before a 16-1 loss Tuesday to first-ranked Florida.

FAU’s starters also have one luxury the Knights’ rotation does not — the comfort of not having to pitch deep into a game.

Three of the Owls’ four starters average less than six innings per outing. Rutgers’ (3-6) starters average the same, but in the team’s three wins, each starter pitched at least 5 2/3 innings.

The FAU bullpen has been more reliable. Its top three relief pitchers sport ERAs less than two.

Gebler was consistent his freshman year, but he will eventually move back to the rotation. His presence could pressure his fellow relievers.

Before Hill decides who will play what role, he is looking to see who overcomes the pressure and improves from the Georgia Tech series.

“We had to go to the bullpen. It didn’t work out,” Hill said. “Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.”

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