FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
Vanderbilt’s strong suit in 2009 should be its pitching staff. The returning members of the staff accounted for 37 of the team’s 41 wins last season and pitched 87.4 percent of the innings.
The staff will be buoyed by the return of its weekend rotation of lefthander Mike Minor and righthanders Caleb Cotham and Nick Christiani. The rotation posted a 20-12 mark and accounted for 43.6 percent of the team’s strikeouts.
Leading the rotation will be Minor, who posted a 7-3 record to go along with a 4.28 ERA. This past summer he was named College Summer League Player of the Year by Baseball America. Minor earned the honor after helping the USA Baseball National Team win the gold medal game of the FISU World Championships by throwing 9.2 innings of shutout baseball in the team’s 12-inning win over Japan.
Minor’s place among the best pitchers in the nation was recognized this winter when he earned second team preseason All-America honors from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
“Mike has to be seen as one of top pitchers in the country,” Corbin said. “He brings back a tremendous amount of experience. We have relied on him heavily since his freshman year and we will continue to do so again.” The team’s Saturday starter will be Cotham, who finished the season with a 7-6 record and 4.50 ERA, while averaging over one strikeout per inning.
“Caleb (Cotham) had a great summer in the Cape Cod League and continued his progress this fall,” Corbin said. “He has developed into a quality SEC starter with a heavy fastball and two quality secondary pitches. He has improved a great deal over the last year.”
Vanderbilt’s Sunday starter will be Christiani, who posted a 6-3 record and a 4.97 ERA. He was drafted in the 32nd round by the Cleveland Indians but turned down the chance to play professionally and returned to Nashville.
“Getting Nick (Christiani) back for his senior year was very big for our team in many ways,” Corbin said. “He has a lot of experience in the SEC and he continues to get better.”
After being one of the biggest question marks heading into the 2008 season, the middle of the bullpen is one of Vanderbilt’s most stable parts this year. Righthander Chase Reid and Goodenow, a lefty, were solid contributors last season and will once again fortify the middle of the bullpen.
Reid finished second on the team with 23 appearances, where he went 4-0 with a 4.30 ERA. Goodenow pitched in 19 games, finishing 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA as a lefty specialist.
Also adding depth to the middle of the bullpen will be righthanders Jack Armstrong, Will Clinard and Sonny Gray, and lefthanders Sean Bierman, Grayson Garvin, Ben Blanton, Corey Williams and Kellen St. Luce.
At the back of the bullpen will be sophomore right-hander Russell Brewer, who earned Freshman All-SEC honors after posting eight saves and a 3.52 ERA last season.
“Russell (Brewer) is as consistent as any pitcher we have,” Corbin said. “He could be used in many roles, but really flourishes at the end of the game because of his attitude.”
Corbin also expects righthanders Drew Hayes, Mark Lamm and Navery Moore to provide significant innings at the back of the bullpen. Hayes had two saves last season to go along with his team-leading 3.51 ERA.
“Drew has really come on the last year,” Corbin said. “He has a very good arm with a very competitive attitude. We will count on him heavily and he will end up pitching some very important innings for us. He is very valuable to our club’s success.”