Commentary: Rooney's tinkering with pitching staff may reap rewards later on
Miami Hurricanes to visit the Berg tonight
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 10:03
With conference play looming and a matchup with Miami on deck tonight, the UCF Knights (13-4) have a big week ahead of them.
UCF needs to be at its best for when conference play begins, and a look at some of the moves head coach Terry Rooney has made the past few series can tell you a lot about the team and what they need to do to be successful.
The most obvious tinkering Rooney has done with the team is with his starting rotation.
Rooney is a pitching coach and knows his pitchers best, so when you see him mix and match his starters game-by-game and series-by-series, believe it’s for a reason.
Junior Brian Adkins was the team’s opening day starter. But after having a couple of rough outings, Rooney moved Adkins to a midweek role and Adkins responded with solid outings against Bethune-Cookman and Florida State, going deep into both of those games.
Rooney mixed it up for the starter and it’s probably just a coincidence that he had better outings after switching roles, but Adkins is back in the weekend rotation and is able to be the veteran presence Rooney needs on his pitching staff.
Another interesting move Rooney has made is giving junior Chris Matulis looks out of the bullpen. It is unclear whether or not Matulis will make his way back into the weekend rotation when conference play rolls around, but having to choose between four weekend-caliber starters is a great problem for Rooney to have.
Matulis has shown excellent composure on the mound in his five appearances, something that was a question after he went a year without pitching.
If Rooney chooses to stick with freshman Eric Skoglund as a weekend starter and have Matulis come in as a long relief pitcher, the Knights will boast an intimidating staff for opponents to face.
UCF has done a great job of showing they have a balanced lineup this season - with Travis Shreve and Alex Friedrich both hitting over .300 near the bottom of the order - but despite this balance, the team has struggled to score runs at times this season, and it all comes down to the lineup.
For example, the Knights had three batters reach base twice in their 1-0 loss to Florida State a week ago - Darnell Sweeney, D.J. Hicks and Chris Taladay. UCF failed to score a run in the game because a player who failed to get on base the entire game followed each of those batters.
Obviously, baseball is a game where failure is the common outcome, but a little bit of lineup tweaking would have done the Knights some good.
And Rooney has done exactly that.
Rooney swapped Shreve, the ninth batter in the order, and Ronnie Richardson, the second batter.
Although he boasts a great on-base percentage at .475, Richardson has not lived up to his potential this year at the plate.
While Richardson is the obvious pick to bat second and one of the most talented players, Rooney recognized that he just needed a different look to get things going, and that Shreve’s ability to get hits is a great thing to have with hitters like Hicks and Taladay following in the order.
Richardson responded to the new look by hitting a clutch RBI double in a game that was eventually decided by a run.
These tweaks and new looks may not seem like much in the long run, but spicing things up for the players is a crucial part of Rooney’s job, and he’s doing it well.