By the end of last fall, Texas Tech baseball coach Dan Spencer hoped to just get to the winter without losing any more players to injuries, which severely impacted Tech’s pitching depth in 2010.
So Spencer is excited that not only have the Red Raiders stayed fairly healthy — at least in terms of season-ending injuries — but that the athleticism and depth will be vastly improved going into 2011.
“We’ve got a lot of speed in the infield and outfield ... and we’ve got a bunch of guys who can throw strikes,” Spencer said. “I’m concerned we don’t have the dominant go-to (pitcher) and we may have to do it with two or three guys. We’ve got candidates but we’ve got more answers than we had when we started, so we’re going forward.”
What final answers Spencer can wring out of the Red Raiders will be determined starting today with the traditional Red-Black Series to close fall workouts. The series begins today at 4 p.m. and continues through Thursday with all games at Dan Law Field.
The Red Raiders finished 28-29 overall and fifth in the Big 12 Conference at 13-14, barely missing a berth in the NCAA regionals. Pitching depth hurt the Red Raiders down the stretch and ultimately was a deciding factor in determining their fate in the early part of May.
That’s why Spencer brought in 23 pitchers and five other players who can pitch and play a position to find 11-12 solid arms to count upon when the spring rolls around. Entering Red-Black, 19 true pitchers remain with five others who can pitch and play either the outfield or infield.
That group includes veteran Robbie Kilcrease and 2010 newcomers Duke vonSchamann and Zach Fowler, all who missed last year with elbow injuries, as well as right-hander John Neely, who moved into the Friday-night starting spot early in conference before a broken hand knocked him out for the rest of the year. Together, the staff will look to improve on Tech’s Big 12-worst 6.68 ERA.
“Our depth in the weekend and in the midweek will put us in a position to throw our fourth and fifth guys as starters and they will be Division I pitchers and strike-throwers,” Spencer said. “We will be better defensively and offensively and drastically improved from a standpoint of strike-to-ball ratio, and we will go deeper in our bullpen and deeper with our starters.”
That would be a welcome compliment to an offense that hit .307 a year ago and returns four of the top five hitters, including reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Barrett Barnes and junior cleanup hitter Scott LeJeune, who appears to have won a job in left field next to Barnes, who moves from first base to center.
“We have more depth on the mound, a lot of left-handers who can throw strikes, depth on the infield and our hitting one through nine,” said Barnes, who led Tech in average (.341) and home runs (14) in 2010. “We look like a completely different club.”
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