The Sweets bring an almost entirely new set of faces to the mound in the 2016 season after the staff struggled last year.
It was a staff that saw a strong starting rotation last season, but the bullpen was shaky at times. It ended the year with a 4.15 team ERA, but the Sweets saw great performances by Joe DeMers (Washington) with a 2.07 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 30 and a third innings pitched and Easton Lucas (Pepperdine) with 2.43 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched.
“After last season was completed we took a good look at where we could get better,” manager Frank Mutz said. “We would get through most of our games with a lead or in every game if we fell behind. I feel great about all the arms we have signed for the 2016 season.”
“I believe we did a great job last year keeping starters in reasonable pitch counts and this coming summer it should be the same,” Mutz added.
While there is no clear direction as to who will start or pitch in the bullpen, Mutz is confident about the back end of the ‘pen as compared to last season.
“You never knew what to expect when one of the relievers took the mound [last season],” Mutz said. “We had some great relief appearances throughout the summer but it was not consistent enough to help us hold leads. We lost over 15 games last summer late with the lead. I'm very excited to have the arms we have coming out of the pen this summer.”
It will be a diverse pitching staff this summer as well. As the roster currently stands, Mutz and pitching coach Michael Dingilian will have five lefties and seven right-handers to work with.
There is also a large range of ages on the squad, but most are young. There are seven pitchers who will be a freshman in college next year and three who are currently in their first year of college. The staff in anchored age-wise by senior returners Clayten Ayers (Georgia College and State) and AJ Carkner (Pikeville). This youth did not escape Mutz’ concerns, but he is looking at the positives of the situation.
“I'm excited to see the young high school arms we have signed for this summer,” Mutz said. “Last year’s arms Demers, Molnar, and Lucas were incredible. My hope is we are better overall this coming summer.”
The duties of controlling these talented pitchers fall not only on Mutz, but mostly on the shoulders of Dingilian. Mutz feels good about was Dingilian can do with the arms. He is just in his second season of coaching, but he and Mutz work well together as Dingilian played for the Sweets’ manager back in high school.
“Michael is a very intelligent baseball guy and is becoming a fast study rather quickly,” Mutz said. “Michael will handle the majority of dealing with the pitchers during pre-game and bullpen sessions. My responsibility will be to work with the catchers calling the games, setting up the rotation and helping pitchers with the mental part of pitching.”
Mutz said he is not sure who will start game one against Victoria, or who will fill in at the other roles in the bullpen.
He and the rest of us will find out on June 3 when the HarbourCats come to Walla Walla for the season opener.