pitcher

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Daily Texan on June 9, 2011. Former Longhorns pitcher Taylor Jungmann, profiled here, will play in Saturday's Alumni Game.

Six straight balls. Six painful errors two years ago in Omaha, one after another, that began Taylor Jungmann’s heartbreaking education as a college pitcher.

The Longhorns are clinging to a 6-4 lead in game one of the 2009 College World Series against Louisiana State. It’s the top of the ninth inning. There is one out and a man on first base. Jungmann, a freshman, comes to the mound with orders of closing the game out. Derek Helenihi is the first batter he faces, a right-handed hitter who is hitting .255 and is already 0-for-3 in the game.

Ball one. Then ball two. A third. The take sign is on for Helenihi with a 3-0 count, but Jungmann still can’t get a pitch over the plate. Ball four.

“I think I got a little ahead of myself,” Jungmann said, two years after. “I might have gotten out of the moment.”

Each time Jungmann has failed, he has gone on to succeed. Such inspiration — you could almost call it vengeance — doesn’t completely make up who he is as a pitcher, no. The sheer physicality of Jungmann has a heavy hand in his dominance: the imposing 6-foot-6 righty — from the mound he looks like some Herculean giant — can pitch all game if he has to. His elite weapons, the fastball that cuts into the catcher’s mitt around 94 mph, the slashing slider, and the deceptive change-up, leave batters clueless. But Jungmann’s quiet strength, devoid of fear or apprehension or even a perspective of the moment, and his hunger to always win, has made him the best big-game pitcher in college baseball.

Helenihi takes his free base, which puts Tigers on first and second. Jungmann, clearly rattled, throws ball one to the next batter, Tyler Hanover. Then he throws ball two.

Jungmann is pulled from the game, replaced by fellow freshman Austin Dicharry. Hanover strikes out, but a sharp double down the left-field line by the next batter, DJ LeMahieu, scores both the runner on second and Helenihi to tie the game 6-6.

The Tigers win it two innings later. Jungmann is credited with the tying run.

“Anytime you have an outing like that, you spend the whole night thinking about how you could fix it,” he said.

The next night, Jungmann redeemed himself, throwing a complete game, allowing one run on five hits and striking out nine Tigers in a 5-1 win. He threw 120 pitches that night. But still, you couldn’t help but think about the fact that, had he done his job in game one, the series would have been over and Texas would have been headed back to Austin with its seventh national championship.

“I still think about it,” he said. “I see the guys like [volunteer assistant coach] Travis Tucker who are still around here that were on the team. I think about if I were able to close that first game out, we could have won it.”

The cruelty of baseball revealed itself in game three, where Jungmann had to watch as the Tigers pounced — winning 11-4 in a runaway.

He took what he had to learn the hard way in Omaha — to not play out of the moment — and applied it to his sophomore season, winning eight games, none bigger than game two in the Super Regional against TCU. Staring down elimination — the Horned Frogs had won the first of the best-of-three series — Jungmann pitched his team to a 15-1 win.

“I try not to think about situations,” he said. “You have to try not to look at a big game differently.”

Texas forgot to save some runs, and lost it the next day 4-1.

This season, Jungmann has taken dominance to another level. Before postseason play, he was the nation’s best at 13-0, with an ERA of less than one. After he took down Texas A&M in the biggest game of the year — in College Station, no less — head coach Augie Garrido said that his ace was the best he had seen since Jered Weaver . Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson, who has groomed big-leaguers such as Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey, agreed with Garrido.

“I think he’s probably the best I’ve ever coached,” Johnson said. “He has a gift.”

The Big 12 Pitcher-of-the-Year Award went to Jungmann, and he’s been named one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award , college baseball’s Heisman Trophy. Everything was going so well for him, until rare and unexpected failure finally struck again Saturday against Kent State in the Austin Regional.

His eyes are wet and his voice is strained. It is the most uncomfortable press conference of Taylor Jungmann’s life. He has just been rocked by Kent State in a pivotal game of the Austin Regional, and now, his Longhorns are a loss away from elimination. Nobody knew how to deal with it — his teammates admit they are shocked to see their All-American pitcher get knocked out by a three-seed. Said senior first baseman Tant Shepherd : “We had never seen anything like that happen to him.” The last thing Jungmann wants to do after this loss, his first of the year, is sit in front of the hot lights and answer the media’s whys and hows.

“I just didn’t have it,” he says, staring into space.

In the sixth inning, Jungmann was mercifully pulled from the game. As he walked off the mound and into the dugout after allowing a grand slam, a walk and a single in one inning, he was given a standing ovation by the gracious Texas crowd, aware that it might never see big No. 26 on the mound at Disch-Falk again.

“By the time I was done pitching, I wasn’t happy,” he said. “I didn’t even hear them.”

Thankfully for Jungmann, the Longhorns sent Texas State and Kent State home, winning three in a row to set up this weekend’s Super Regional. Now Jungmann gets the ball Friday with the chance to redeem his reputation as the best big-game pitcher around and set the tone for a possible return trip to Omaha. And we all know how Jungmann reacts
to failure.

“I’ve been bad before,” he said, “And the next time up, it’s a totally different game.”

Oklahoma junior catcher Anthony Hermelyn was named the Big 12 Player of the Week after hitting .529 last week in four games.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Oklahoma’s junior catcher Anthony Hermelyn was named Big 12 Player of the Week, and Texas Tech’s senior pitcher Cameron Smith earned Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors.

Kansas’ freshman third baseman Matt McLaughlin and junior pitcher Blake Smith were named co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week award.

This week’s awards were the first for Hermelyn, McLaughlin and Smith. This is Smith’s second Big 12 pitcher of the week award this season.

Losses create Big 12 chaos

Upsets this weekend set two top teams in the Big 12 back.

No. 8 TCU, the conference’s second-ranked team going into the weekend, lost two games against Kansas State. The Wildcats piled on 14 runs on 18 hits Friday in a 14–4 win over the Horned Frogs. TCU evened the series Saturday with a 9–0 win. However, Kansas State prevailed 6–2 Sunday, and the series loss dropped the Horned Frogs into a third place tie with Texas Tech in the conference.

Kansas (15–21, 3–6 Big 12) upset No. 15 Oklahoma State, dropping the Cowboys from sole possession of first place to a first-place tie with Oklahoma. The Jayhawks lost Friday’s opening game, 2–7, but rallied to win Saturday’s game, 3–2, and clinched the series, 4–2, Sunday.    

Five Big 12 players named to Golden Spikes Award Midseason List

The list, which is composed of 60 NCAA Division I baseball players, features three TCU pitchers — junior Riley Ferrell and seniors Preston Morrison and redshirt sophomore Mitchell Traver – Oklahoma State’s senior pitcher Michael Freeman and Texas’ senior left-fielder Ben Johnson.

The award honors the country’s best amateur player. The list will be cut to 30 players and semifinalists’ names will be announced on May 22. The winner will be named on June 23.

Big 12 teams remain ranked

TCU is ranked in the top 10 in four of the national polls, despite losing two games this weekend. The Horned Frogs are ranked as high as No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

Oklahoma State is also ranked in four of the major polls, ranked as high as No. 10 in the Collegiate Baseball. The Big 12 has one other team ranked, with Texas Tech at No. 25 in Baseball America’s poll. Oklahoma received votes in two polls.

West Virginia opens new stadium

West Virginia opened a new baseball stadium this weekend: Monongalia County Ballpark.

The Mountaineers christened their new stadium with a 6–5 walk-off win against Butler in front of a record crowd of 3,110.

West Virginia went on to sweep the Bulldogs with an 8–0 win on Saturday and a 12–4 win on Sunday.

Freshman pitcher Connor Mayes got a pair of big outs to help Texas escape a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and propel Texas to its first win since March 22.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Texas was in desperate need of win when the Shockers loaded the bases late in the game with one out. 

Freshman pitcher Connor Mayes was on the mound as the Longhorns (18–15, 5–4 Big 12) clung to a one-run lead. 

But, with a shallow fly and a groundout, Mayes came up big as Texas finally ended its seven-game skid with a 6–4 win over Wichita State on Tuesday night.

“It’s great for something to go right for us, especially after the past couple of weekends,” second baseman Brooks Marlow said. “I think it’s just a step forward for us and it’s going to make us that much better.”

The Texas offense had struggled over the seven-game losing streak, but it came up big against the Shockers.

“It was important to see the team much more relaxed,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We looked much better tonight as a team.”

The Longhorns struck early, taking their first opening-frame lead since their series finale against Kansas State on March 22.

In the opening frame, freshman shortstop Joe Baker led off with a walk, which was followed by a Shocker error on a sacrifice bunt that allowed senior second baseman Brooks Marlow to reach first safely. Baker came around to score on an RBI fielder’s choice by junior left fielder Ben Johnson. 

Texas added another run on a double by sophomore third baseman C.J Hinojosa.

The offense continued its early onslaught in the second inning. Sophomore center fielder Zane Gurwitz began the Longhorn threat with a one-out walk, Baker followed with a single to put runners on the corners, and Marlow pushed the Texas lead to 3–0 with an RBI single. Sophomore catcher Tres Barrera extended the lead to 4–0 with a  sacrifice fly.

The Shockers fought back in the fourth, when freshman designated hitter Gunnar Troutwine hit an RBI double to cut the Texas lead to 4–2.

But Texas answered in the bottom of the frame as Marlow recorded another RBI single to put Texas up 5-2.

A two-run Wichita State homer in the fifth cut the deficit to one.

After the Shocker homer, both offenses went cold until Wichita State loaded the bases in the eighth.

Texas added an insurance run in the ninth on Baker’s third hit of the game.

Senior reliever Ty Culdreth closed the game out in the ninth and secured their first win since March 24. Freshman pitcher Jake McKenzie, who came on in relief in the fourth for sophomore starter Josh Sawyer, picked up the win.

“The best part of today was just getting that win,” Baker said. “We really needed that to finally get that first win out of the way and get that streak ended. It was a good win.”

Correction: Due to an editing mistake, an earlier version of this story had Ty Marlow, instead of Ty Culdreth, closing out the game in the ninth inning. 

The No. 25 Longhorns started strong during its trip to California this weekend but struggled in their final games to end the weekend with a 2–3 record and a season mark of 9–6.  

On Thursday, Texas compiled upsets against No. 8 Georgia and No. 12 UCLA. The Longhorns handed the Bulldogs its first loss of the season behind a three-hit, complete-game shutout from freshman pitcher Erica Wright.

The game was scoreless until senior right fielder Marlee Gabaldon knocked a double into the right-center field gap to clear the loaded bases in the top of the seventh. Junior third baseman Stephanie Ceo then hit an inside-the-park home run that dropped between Georgia’s right and center fielders to add two more runs.

Two huge defensive plays from junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens kept the Bulldogs off the board late in the game. She fired a bullet in the bottom of the fifth to throw out Georgia senior pinch runner Adele Harrison at home and then made a tough catch in the sixth to strand two Georgia runners.

Against UCLA, sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis threw four innings and gave up just one earned run on three hits while striking out two. Senior pitcher Gabby Smith earned her first save of the season, allowing two earned runs on five hits and striking out two in the final three frames of Texas’ 5–3 win.

Junior catcher Erin Shireman, who went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs, led the Longhorns while Stephens went 1-for-2 and scored a pair of runs.

Defensively, Shireman and sophomore left fielder Stephanie Wong made big plays to help preserve the Texas victory. In the bottom of the fifth, Wong made a difficult, back-handed running catch, and Shireman fired a shot from behind the plate to throw out a UCLA runner, keeping the game in Texas’ hands.

However, Friday didn’t go as well for Texas, as a seventh-inning Longhorn rally came up short in an 8–7 loss to Fresno State. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Slatten threw the first four frames, giving up three earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts. Freshman pitcher Kristen Clark came on in relief and took the loss, giving up the first of four runs in a big fifth inning for the Bulldogs.

Junior first baseman Holly Kern led the Longhorn on offense, going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs. Stephens knocked a home run as well and Smith, in the game as a designated player, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

On Friday night, Texas lost to No. 18 Missouri, 4–3. Wright pitched the entire game, allowing all four unearned runs and notching just one strikeout. Wong, Stephens and sophomore second baseman Kelli Hanzel each had an RBI. The Longhorns stranded the tying run on third in both games.

Texas closed out its weekend by losing to No. 24 Notre Dame, 5–1, on Saturday. Davis gave up four earned runs on four hits in 3.2 innings and took the loss before handing the game over to Slatten.

Smith accounted for the lone Texas score with an RBI single that scored Hanzel in the bottom of the sixth.

The Longhorns return to action this weekend at McCombs Field for the Texas Invitational.

Junior outfielder Ben Johnson swings away at a pitch. Johnson finished the game 4-for-5 with two stolen bases and a run scored.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

A bounce-back start from sophomore pitcher Kacy Clemens helped No. 8 Texas secure a four-game sweep against Minnesota in an 8–0 win Sunday.

Clemens came into Sunday’s game with a 24.00 ERA. In his first collegiate start, Clemens gave up eight runs on eight hits against Rice.

Clemens said he was frustrated after the disappointing start, but advice he received from head coach Augie Garrido and his dad, Texas legend Roger Clemens, helped him in the win against the Golden Gophers.

“I hadn’t really experienced that before,” Clemens said. “I was obviously pretty bummed about my first start. But this week, talking with [pitching coach] Skip [Johnson], talking with Augie and my dad, I just got everything back to speed. Came out today ready to go, and it went well.”

Allowing just one hit in five innings, Clemens struck out four and walked two.

Offensively, Texas backed Clemens early, scoring two runs in the first inning and five in the second.

A big second inning started when sophomore center fielder Zane Gurwitz and freshman designated hitter Patrick Mathis drew back-to-back walks with one out. After a wild pitch that scored Gurwitz, senior right fielder Collin Shaw smacked a double to drive in Mathis. Texas scored three more runs after that hit. The Longhorns scored five runs on four walks and two hits.

Senior second baseman Brooks Marlow said the Texas offensive explosion is no surprise to the team.

“We have a lot of guys that are going to do whatever it takes,” Marlow said. “They’re always going to have a quality at-bat. They have a plan when they go up to the plate. Somebody is always going to hit the ball every inning.”

The Longhorns added a final run in the fourth inning to extend their lead to 8-0.

With the commanding lead, junior pitcher Travis Duke relieved Clemens. Garrido said the move to end Clemens’ day after five was planned.

“We want the pitchers to have good experiences,” Garrido said. “We don’t want to take them out late and have them give up two or three runs.”

With a solid outing from Clemens, the Longhorns were able to continue their domination against Minnesota. Texas won Friday’s game, 13–2. The Longhorns swept Saturday’s doubleheader with two 5–0 victories. Through the four-game series, Texas only allowed two runs while it scored 31 runs on 47 hits.

This weekend’s performance has shown Garrido promise in this year’s team.

“Positive things are contagious, and right now, things over the weekend went in a very positive way for the whole team,” Garrido said. “I think we took a giant step toward team work this weekend. All in all, a very good weekend for the Longhorns.”

The Longhorns (7–2) return to action against UT-Pan American (5–2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. 

After winning the “ace” position last year, sophomore Tiarra Davis hopes to build on her freshman performance, when she struck out 176 batters and won the Big 12 Rookie of the Year.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Led by sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis, who now has a full season under her belt, the Texas pitching staff looks to be a dominant force as they kick off the season Friday in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. 

“We’ve got five [pitchers] that we’re working,” head coach Connie Clark said. “A big staff, we’ll rotate them through, we’ll see what it looks like, but Tiarra brings some really good things to the table.”

As a freshman, Davis recorded a 2.38 ERA, holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average while striking out 176 in 200 innings last season. She wasn’t just a threat in the circle, as she hit .313 with 25 RBIs and 13 runs, ultimately earning her recognition as Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

“I think going off of last year’s season, I have a basis to build on,” Davis said. “I’m really looking forward to the season and what it has to bring.”

Davis, who threw three one-hitters and six complete game shutouts in her freshman year, said she hopes she is ready to step up to the mound for the Longhorns to take them to the next level.

“Coach Clark and I had a number of conversations last year about me believing in myself,” Davis said. “This year, I’m hoping to be the top pitcher in our conference.”

Davis isn’t the only pitcher on the team, however. 

Davis is joined by senior Gabby Smith and sophomore Lauren Slatten as veterans in the rotation. Freshman pitchers Kristen Clark and Erica Wright will debut this spring.

“We’ve got a great freshman, Erica Wright, in the mix who just competes hard,” Clark said. “She’s got that kind of ‘wild thing’ piece going on.”

Joining Kristen Clark and Wright as new additions to the team are shortstop/outfielder Alyssa Angel and catcher/utility Randel Leahy.

“Our freshman class isn’t huge, but they are definitely difference makers,” junior second baseman Stephanie Ceo said. “I truly believe [we have] a great chance to make it all the way this year.”

In the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, Texas is ranked No. 25 going into the season, and the team is projected to finish third in the Big 12. After amassing a 35–23 record last year and capturing the school’s 10th consecutive NCAA tournament bid, the team is looking to make the leap to the next tier and advance beyond regionals. 

“I think this team is very optimistic,” Clark said.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Led by a complete game shutout from sophomore pitcher Chad Hollingsworth, Texas beat Texas A&M, 4-1, Monday to win the Houston Regional Championship at Reckling Park.

The Longhorns beat the Aggies for the second time in four days to advance to the Super Regionals where they will take on the Houston Cougars in Austin.

Hollingsworth, who spent the entire regular season as a reliever, got the spot start and delivered one of Texas’ best pitching performances of the season.

"Obviously I was pretty happy [with my performance],” Hollingsworth said. “I texted coach last night and told him to give me the ball. I wanted it.”

After allowing one unearned run in the first inning, Hollingsworth slammed the door on the Aggies, giving up only one hit in the final eight innings.

Mark Payton, C.J Hinojosa and Madison Carter all reached base three times for the Longhorns. Payton, who was named Co-Most Outstanding Player of the region alongside Hollingsworth, drew three walks, stole two bases and scored once in the final contest.

Texas will now have three days to prepare for the Cougars, whom they beat 3-2 earlier this year in the Houston College Classic. The first game of the three-game series goes Friday at 3 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

Not too many pitchers can throw a complete game, allow just one run and still manage to suffer an increase in their ERA.

But that’s exactly what happened to senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill on Sunday afternoon against Oklahoma that resulted in an 8-1 win.

He went the distance, pitched a gem — and his ERA climbed from 0.73 to 0.78.  

“You know you’re the man when you only give up one run, and your ERA goes up,” sophomore reliever Chad Hollingsworth tweeted. “[Thornhill] is that dude.”

But the road for Thornhill — who was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week on Monday — to get there took some turns. After being selected by the Houston Astros in the 24th round of the MLB Draft, Thornhill spurned them to return to Texas in an attempt to put the Longhorns back on the map after a low year.

And that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s anchored a staff that ranks No. 6 in the nation in ERA. His Big 12 leading and national top-10 0.78 ERA definitely helps that. Texas is 29-8 and No. 6 in the nation. The Longhorns are back on top of the Big 12, and their confidence is at an all-time high.

“We have a lot of confidence,” Thornhill said. “We know what our plan is at the plate. We know what our plan is on defense and pitching, and, if we go and execute that, the game should come out in our favor.”

Thornhill has allowed just four runs in seven starts. And all this for a guy who, at one point, wasn’t even in the opening weekend rotation, finding himself behind junior pitcher Lukas Schiraldi.

He began to settle into the pen, with a real possibility of taking over the closer role. In eight relief innings, he allowed just one run while recording two wins and two saves.

After a few starts for Schiraldi went sour, Thornhill regained his spot in the rotation and hasn’t looked back. He has already recorded a career-high six wins this season without even losing one. His WHIP is below one, and his opponents are hitting just 0.168 against him.

But Thornhill doesn’t let the hype get to him, as he’s still focused on improving.

“Last year, I started to kind of figure out what kind of pitcher I was and then just [built] upon that this year,” Thornhill said. “I’ve just continued to work with [pitching coach] Skip [Johnson] and listen to him because I need to be a sponge when he’s talking.”

When Texas faces UT-Arlington on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Disch-Falk Field, Thornhill will be resting his arm, watching Schiraldi deal and getting ready for this weekend’s series against TCU. 

“It is a lot different,” Thornhill said. “It is a lot more fun. I think that is the biggest part. With the wins, come more fun. You like that feeling, and you don’t want to have the other feeling.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Sunday night, freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis did something she hasn’t done often this season — give up the eventual game-winning grand slam in a relief appearance, as the Longhorns fell to Iowa 6-5.

But Monday night, Davis was on a mission in the circle, striking out nine batters and holding the Hawkeyes to one hit as Texas won its first series of the year with a 3-0 win.

“She wants the ball,” head coach Connie Clark said. “It’s just about getting her consistent and dealing with scenarios like that.”

Davis came out firing to start the game, striking out four of the Iowa’s first seven batters. 

Iowa (5-12) threatened Texas in the top of the third inning as the first two runners reached base for the top of the Hawkeye lineup. But Davis got a fly out to center, a strikeout and a ground out to get out of the jam. In the fourth, Davis fired back, striking out all three batters in the frame, keeping batters off balance with a mix of fastballs and off speed pitches.

Davis, who improved to 7-7 this season and leads the team with a 2.36 ERA, also worked around bit of a jam in the fourth with two on and one out for her 10th complete game and first career shutout. She said she trusts her defense when she gets in those tough situations.

“Usually me and Mandy [Ogle] have a head nod or something, and it reminds me to relax and just throw the ball and trust my defense,” Davis said.

The Longhorns (18-14), who have struggled to take advantage of scoring opportunities this season, struck in the first inning when sophomore right-fielder Lindsey Stephens got the offense going with a two-out triple. Then, with the bases loaded, sophomore designated-hitter Holly Kern ripped a double to left-center field to score the first two runs of the game.

Kern said she benefited from Davis’ 11-pitch at bat right before she stepped to the plate.

“Coming into the at bat, I was like, ‘She had a really good at bat, so I’m going to get a hit for her’,” Kern said. “It felt really good to score some runners.”

In the next inning, the Horns added another run when senior center-fielder Brejae Washington hit a two-out triple to left-center to score senior catcher Mandy Ogle.

Meanwhile, for Iowa, senior pitcher Kayla Massey settled down after the first two innings. Despite allowing nine hits, Massey kept Texas off the board in the last four innings, including pitching out of a bases loaded situation in the sixth inning.

Texas will get one last non-conference game Wednesday night against Houston before opening up Big 12 play at Waco on Saturday and Sunday.

They may not seem like they matter, but relievers do have their own category in fantasy baseball (saves), so let’s give them some recognition.

Which reliever should go off the board first?

Craig Kimbrel (ATL) – Not only is he on a winning team that will provide him save opportunities, but Kimbrel is good and reliable too. He has a 1.39 earned run average over his career, which is the best all-time among any pitcher through his age-25 season. He put up 50 saves last season, 42 in 2012 and 46 in 2011. He is safe to grab in any draft as the number one closer.

Who is making a comeback from a disappointing 2013 season?

Fernando Rodney (SEA) – Rodney was the king of closers in 2012, tallying up 48 in 50 opportunities. 2013 was a different story, though, as Rodney’s ERA shot up from a 0.60 to a 3.38. He just got a new contract with the Mariners and is capable of putting up at least 35 saves and striking out batters.

Don’t sleep on this guy

John Axford (CLE) – Axford could easily be labeled as my comeback player as well, but I am putting him as a sleeper because it’s almost as if people have forgotten about the guy who led the National League in saves just two years ago. This year, he has the opportunity with the Cleveland Indians to become fantasy-relevant once again.

Bound to bust

Addison Reed (ARI) – Reed played very well last season for the Chicago White Sox, notching a solid 40 saves. However, his other numbers weren’t the best. Reed blew eight saves and had an ERA of 3.79, which is pretty high for a closer. In 2012, he managed just a 4.75 ERA. With a new team, there is no guarantee he locks up the closer role for the entire season.

My Pre-Season Rankings: Relievers

  1. Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
  2. Aroldis Chapman (CIN)
  3. Koji Uehara (BOS)
  4. Kenley Jansen (LAD)
  5. Joe Nathan (DET)
  6. Trevor Rosenthal (STL)
  7. Michael Wacha (STL)
  8. Greg Holland (KC)
  9. Sergio Romo (SF)
  10. Rafael Soriano (WAS)
  11. Glen Perkins (MIN)
  12. Jason Grilli (PIT)
  13. David Robertson (NYY)
  14. Jim Johnson (OAK)
  15. Casey Janssen (TOR)
  16. Ernesto Frieri (LAA)
  17. Grant Balfour (TB)
  18. Fernando Rodney (SEA)
  19. John Axford (CLE)
  20. Steve Cishek (MIA)

I’ll leave you with this...

Depending on how many teams are in your league, how many closers you need and what your scoring settings are, the strategy of picking relievers can vary. In most drafts, I would wait until the 9th or 10th round to grab your first closer. Unless you really want one of the elite guys on your team, then you might have to grab them in the 7th or 8th round. If there are enough relievers to go around, perhaps in a 10-team league with two relief pitcher spots, maybe the relievers aren’t your top priority. Don’t hold off too long, though, or else you might be stuck with some bad options to draft from. However, there are always new closers popping up during the middle of the season, so pay attention to the waiver wire.

Recently, Adam has given his two cents about the players at each position, naming a clear-cut number one, a comeback player, a sleeper/breakout, a bust, his full rankings and a little advice as to what to do in your draft and throughout the season.