Young rotations hopes to surprise MWC

Matt Purke, Kyle Winkler and Steven Maxwell are in the past for TCU baseball and replacing them could be the toughest challenge head coach Jim Schlossnagle will face this season.

“We knew that this was going to be a big turnover year for us on the mound, so we tried to fill those needs in recruiting,” Schlossnagle said. “I like the guys we have on the team, but you never know until you play the games that count.”

Schlossnagle said the starting rotation would start with a combination of sophomores Andrew Mitchell, Stefan Crichton and Nick Frey, redshirt freshman Trey Teakell and freshman Brandon Finnegan.

Schlossnagle said this roster has the fewest amount of pitchers of any team he has coached. With so many uncertainties heading into the season, the Horned Frogs are hoping the young group of pitchers will turn some heads, he said.

“Hopefully we have some surprises on our pitching staff because we just have so many new, new guys or guys that just haven’t pitched before,” he said.

Kaleb Merck, a redshirt junior relief pitcher who missed the 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, said he had high expectations.

“It comes down to leadership and having a good team bond, and we have that, so I expect us to do really well,” Merck said.

Merck is still rehabilitating his arm to 100 percent, and he said regaining full arm strength was his focus during the offseason.

“My arm strength is there, it just takes a matter of time to get the arm speed back,” Merck said.

With no senior pitchers, the Frogs’ pitching staff must overcome the inexperience of a young rotation and bullpen.

“We don’t have a lot of guys with live game experience, but that will come,” Merck said. “And leadership will help them to get into the comfort zone and mentally be prepared. We may have a few growing pains early on, but we’ll get past that quickly.”

Merck said the bullpen’s focus is to throw strikes and get outs, but he has not set any personal goals for the season.

“I want the team to win, and if we win, then that usually means that I’m doing well,” Merck said.

Schlossnagle said the success of the bullpen would hinge on Merck’s success, but relievers could potentially step up and make a difference.

Merck compared the pitchers to a family and said having a tight bond and good leadership could be the key to their success.

“We are a highly committed group of guys towards a goal, and we really want to make it back to Omaha,” Merck said.