As Ohio navigates through the infancy of baseball season, coach Rob Smith has kept an eye on his starting pitchers.
The trio of Gerry Salisbury, Butch Baird and Michael Klein have each started three games and combined for 20 earned runs. Although Salisbury might be the Bobcats’ ace, his E.R.A. is the highest of three.
As Smith continues to monitor his starters, questions remain in Ohio’s bullpen. It will look to begin answering those questions when the Bobcats hit the road for a three-game series with Towson.
“We’ve got some options down there (in the bullpen),” Smith said. “With each weekend, we’re finding out more and more about those guys.”
When the Bobcats get performances out of their starters such as the one Salisbury gave them Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha — eight innings, four hits, three strikeouts and one earned run — the bullpen situation becomes easy: bring in closer Jake Roehn, Ohio’s all-time leader in saves.
If the starters struggle, however, Smith is forced to go to his bullpen and use much of his staff, testing its depth.
Cory Blessing has become reliable for Ohio out of the bullpen. Blessing has five appearances already this season, posting a 2.25 E.R.A. and providing a long-relief option when needed.
Blessing knows his role, and he’s comfortable in it. When he has a good outing, the entire bullpen benefits from it. Others in the bullpen such as Eddie Kutt and Kenny Ogg have proven themselves as solid arms, which fuels the young arms.
Klein, who has become a hitter along with his duties as a pitcher, thinks the staff benefits from other pitchers doing well. When Salisbury had his superb outing against Nebraska-Omaha, it gave Klein confidence, which gave everyone confidence.
As Klein has worked his way into the batting order, he understands how much run support weighs on the pitchers. The pressure, Klein said, is on the offense when the lineup notices good pitching, but can’t come up with runs to help the pitchers out.
“I like to vocalize that to the team, like, ‘hey, this guy’s pitching his butt off. Let’s get him some runs,’ ” Klein said. “I know it’s frustrating as a pitcher. The pitcher’s not going to say anything. Me being a (pitcher and hitter), I can say that.”
During the first six games, Smith has occasionally used as many as nine pitchers. Each pitcher threw an inning or less, which gave young arms a chance to see action in a game. Smith’s objective is to evaluate each pitcher and get them comfortable in their roles as the season progresses.
That doesn’t mean the bullpen will stay as large as it has been. It’s an open competition in the middle portion of the bullpen, and it’s just getting started.
“Those (four-game series) provide a lot of opportunities,” Smith said. “Everything’s a three-game series (now) so (the bullpen’s) going to get shorter.”