As Lelo Prado began his eighth season as Head Coach of the University of South Florida Bulls the first day of practice on Friday, he spoke optimistically about a pitching staff he called, “The best we’ve had top to bottom since I’ve been here.”
Jordan Strittmatter is one of multiple options Prado can use in 2014 out of the back of the bullpen. Tommy Peterson will be back and is healthy after recovering from injuries, as is senior left-hander Lawrence Pardo, who worked 43 2/3 innings in relief last year with a 5-1 record while recording 3 saves.
A converted outfielder, Strittmatter found himself right at home on the mound in 2013 working in 27 games and pitching to a 1.75 ERA in 25 2/3 innings of work. Featuring a fastball that touches 92 on occasion, and a slider that he calls his best pitch, Strittmatter is comfortable throwing either pitch in any count. Strittmatter credits USF pitching coach Lance Carter for helping to make the transition easier.
“Coach Carter made it easy, emphasizing and teaching me to command my fastball and slider in any count,” Strittmatter said. “He has helped me realize how dedicated you have to be to be successful at this level. Whether that is with your on the field work, in the weight room, or your diet and staying healthy. This season we’re focused on finishing strong, which means being in better shape. I have worked harder than ever this off-season to make sure that happens.”
Strittmatter isn’t content with where he is as a pitcher and has also worked this off-season developing a third pitch, a change-up.
“Its coming along,” Strittmatter added. “last year I was in against mostly right-handed hitters and did well, but I struggled a little against lefties, and this year I’ll be able to use the change-up against them”.
Closing out games requires a certain mindset.
Asked if he wants to be that guy, Strittmatter didn’t hesitate, “From the middle of last year I realized coming in and closing out games was one of the best feelings in baseball, obviously I want to be that guy, but we have a bunch of guys who can do it so whatever its takes to win,” he added. ” That is what is different about this years team, we have leaders all over the field, everyone pushes each other and makes sure we are all doing the right things to help us win as a team. We all get along on and off the field and it carries over on to the field.”
That sounds like a team that is ready to get the 2014 season started.