For Penn baseball, the pitching rotation is still a work in progress.
The Quakers are working with a largely young and inexperienced rotation this season. Of the four men who put in the most innings over their spring break tour — sophomores Connor Cuff and Dan Gautieri, junior Pat Bet and freshman Mitch Holtz — Gautieri is the only one who had extensive pitching experience last season.
“Nothing’s etched in stone yet,” coach John Cole said. “We’re still trying to figure a little bit this rotation out because three of the four guys who pitched over break didn’t pitch at all last year.”
Cuff showed promise at the beginning of last season, leading the team in strikeouts in four starts and seven appearances.
However, after partially tearing his labrum and rotator cuff a third of the way through the season, he was out for the year.
“It was pretty disappointing,” Cuff said. “I felt like I was starting to get my role down.”
After having surgery in May, Cuff looks close to completely recovered, with his velocity nearly back to where he was last season, reaching 88 mph.
In the beginning of the southern tour, Cuff struggled, going 3.2 innings and giving up five runs in an 8-2 loss to William & Mary. However, his outing against Winthrop was strong, as he threw 6.1 innings, giving up only one run and notching his first win of the season.
“He’s got a ton of pitching ability,” Cole said. “To have him come back, he has some leadership qualities, he’s probably going to be our guy who gets the ball possibly in our number one role.”
Cuff feels as though his stuff will speak for itself.
“My velocity is pretty much back, as well as command, so I feel good moving forward,” he said.
Though Cuff has some collegiate experience, there are several of his teammates who took the mound for the first time.
Among those is Bet, who has donned the Red and Blue for three years, but due to injury has not yet appeared. However, he made a statement in his first career start, shutting out ACC opponent Duke, 6-0, giving up only two hits in six innings.
“[Bet]’s really a brave and courageous kid to go through Tommy John [surgery] and work his way back,” Cole said. “He’s a tough kid and nobody was happier than me when he threw for six innings shutout against Duke. His first start since high school three years ago? That’s saying a lot about the young man.”
Also new to the mound is sophomore Jeff McGarry, who Cole is looking to be a high velocity thrower.
“He’s kind of been a little inconsistent in the beginning, but again, he missed the entire season last year,” Cole said. “He’s learning on the job. He’s going to be a work in progress. He has a lot of ability.”
Though the rotation is young, Gautieri — who started two games, made 17 appearances and ended last season with a 3.95 earned run average — has had the strongest start.
Gautieri won his first two starts of this season, including a complete game shutout against Winthrop in which he boasted a 1.23 ERA.
“We might be young and we have a lot of young pitchers on the team but I think we’re as talented as we’ve been in the past couple years,” Cuff said.
“There’s no substitute for experience but this crew had Penn on and they’ve been around it a little bit,” Cole said.
“It’s a totally inexperienced staff but I like ‘em. I mean, I think we’re gonna be pretty darn good.”
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