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Bullpen is Michael Cederoth’s New Home

Michael Cederoth to the bullpen

When San Diego State flamethrower Michael Cederoth sat at the podium following the Aztecs’ season-ending loss to rival San Diego in the Los Angeles Regional, in which he walked five batters, he vowed to correct his control issues:

“In the beginning, it was probably my best start I’ve had all year, but of course, bad habits tend to catch up to me,” Cederoth said. “Five walks obviously showed up in five runs, and I take that to heart, and I know for a fact that’s not going to happen next year.”

But when San Diego State opened the season at San Jose State, the junior walked four and gave up five runs (three earned) throwing 93 pitches in 3.2 innings, prompting the Aztecs’ coaching staff to reassess the best way to use the 6’6″, 215-pound hurler with the tantalizing fastball that routinely was hitting triple digits in the aforementioned season finale last year.

“After that [San Jose State] game, we got together, because now you don’t have him for the rest of the weekend,” San Diego State head coach Tony Gwynn said Saturday night after the Aztecs’ 2-1 extra-inning win over West Virginia.

During his sophomore season last year, Cederoth made 15 appearances — all starts, going 3-9 with a 4.25 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 95.1 innings. He held opponents to a .213 batting average. but walked 48 batters.

“It’s almost better for us to just put him in the closer’s role where he can go an inning and you have a chance to use him all three days.”

Cederoth has three relief appearances since the switch. Against Loyola Marymount last Tuesday, he walked the first batter, got a double play and then recorded a strikeout.

Michael Cederoth got the win in relief.

In Saturday’s nail-biter, he entered with one runner on and again walked the first batter he faced, after not getting the call on 2-2 slider that looked to have dropped into the zone. He worked out of the inning, using only 91-96 mph fastballs, getting a shallow fly ball and a grounder to end the threat and keep the game tied.

In his second inning of work, he allowed another base on balls, but again got a double play to negate it.

“I’ve got all the faith in the world in that guy. He’s a great pitcher,” said San Diego State sophomore Bubba Derby, who started Saturday night’s matchup and has seen his role flip in the opposite direction, going from freshman closer to starter this year.

“It doesn’t matter the situation he comes in, I know that he’s going to get out of it. He’s going to get us back in the dugout and get us a win…and that’s what it’s about.”

Michael Cederoth did indeed pick up the win Saturday after Tim Zier scored the winning run on a Tyler Adkison fielder’s choice in the bottom half of the inning.

“I’m hoping putting [Cederoth] in the closer role will help him get back on track with throwing strikes. He fell behind Tuesday night when he came in, fell behind tonight, but both times he found a way to get back in the strike zone and get outs,” Gwynn said Saturday. “Slowly but surely we’re trying to build his confidence back again to where he’s comfortable out there on the hill and throwing strikes.”

Sunday, pitching on back-to-back days — something that is often a challenge for newly converted relievers — for the first time, Michael Cederoth had his best appearance yet. West Virginia had already scored a run to trim the Aztecs’ lead to 6-3 in the eighth inning and back-to-back singles had put runners on the corners when Cederoth was summoned from the pen.

Cederoth struck out designated hitter Jackson Cramer on a 2-2 pitch to end the threat. After the Aztecs added an insurance run, Cederoth took to the mound and dismissed the Mountaineers in order on 11 pitches without even going to a two-ball count.

If the Aztecs’ top draft prospect continues his aggressive approach, there is still the possibility Cederoth could find his way back into the weekend rotation.

“We’re still trying to finalize what we’re trying to do with the starting rotation,” Gwynn said. “We’ll see how it goes. If he continues to throw strikes and work ahead, maybe we have a chance to put him back in the rotation, but right now, I think we’re better off having him as a closer.