The Longhorns will rely on a few returning pitchers along with a multitude of new faces to try to erase the unacceptable finish to 2012, in which the Longhorns earned a collective 3.43 ERA, fifth-best in the conference.
Sophomore Parker French has been tapped as the Friday starter and will lead a healthy Texas pitching staff into 2013. As a freshman in 2012, French made nine starts while appearing in 21 games. He posted a 6-2 record and two saves with a season ERA of 2.84, third-best on the team behind current junior Corey Knebel and former Longhorn Hoby Milner.
Thanks to several unfortunate and untimely injuries, including one to the projected ace Sam Stafford, along with the dismissal of freshman Ricky Jacquez, French found himself as the No. 1 starter. However, French sustained an elbow injury against Missouri, ending his season. This year, he is back to 100 percent. His experience on the mound from 2012 will help him lead a young pitching staff.
“Everything is looking really well,” French said. “We have a great mentality, we throw to the mitt, let our defense work. We are not going to beat ourselves, you are going to see a really steady pitching staff.”
Although French has been given the nod by head coach Augie Garrido and pitching coach Skip Johnson to start on Fridays, the rest of the starting rotation is still unknown. The list of possibilities is endless.
Sophomore John Curtiss is listed as out for the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past fall. In 2012, Curtiss posted a 3.50 ERA with a 2-3 record in 28 appearances. He started a few games on the mound but spent most of his time in relief.
Junior Nathan Thornhill is looking to fill the role of one of four main middle relievers this season, despite a few starts in 2012. After Stafford was ruled out for the season, Thornhill got the chance to start until French took over the Friday spot. He went 4-5 as a starter in 11 games last season with a 3.87 season ERA. Although nothing is concrete yet, Thornhill is expected to pitch from the bullpen as a middle reliever.
Sophomore Dillon Peters also has a chance as a starting pitcher. Last season, Peters went 4.1 and had a 3.18 ERA season. Peters was primarily seen on Tuesday nights and racked up 43 strikeouts.
After a brief stint in the starting rotation in 2012, Knebel, a junior right-hander from Georgetown, is back to doing what he does best. When Texas opens up its season, Knebel will act as closer for the Longhorns.
“The starter is obviously a valuable person, but you can’t win the game,” Garrido said. “The games are going to be close … and you need the pitcher to throw a strike. You’ve got to have the right personality and Corey has that.”
Thanks to the mounting number of injuries, Knebel started three games late in the season. He posted a 2.08 ERA, the lowest on the team. Despite this, Knebel has already been named as the team’s closer, leaving open three spots in the starting rotation.
Other returners include juniors Kirby Bellow, Josh Urban and Justin Peters, who each saw limited action scattered throughout the 2012 season. The Longhorns welcome freshmen Chad Hollingsworth, Holden Helmink and Travis Duke to the roster for 2013.
Hollingsworth is the most anticipated of the freshmen. As a starter for Robinson High School, Hollingsworth posted a 0.50 ERA and compiled a 13-2 record with 139 strikeouts. He also has a fastball of more than 90 miles per hour.
“It is still too early to tell,” Garrido said. “We have many guys that could step up over the next two weeks.”