TCU looking to solidify starting rotation

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Only three weekends remain in TCU’s regular season slate, and the Horned Frogs are exploring every option to shore up their starting pitching as they enter the stretch run of their season.

Heading into a crucial weekend series in Fort Worth against No. 24 Texas, head coach Jim Schlossnagle has high expectations for Nick Lodolo, Brian Howard, and Mitchell Traver, TCU’s listed starters for the weekend.

“Ideally we would just plug in the weekend guys in and roll because I don’t like juggling the order at all,”  Schlossnagle said.”Usually, you want a really good guy on Friday night because the other team’s No. 1 is usually going, an innings-eater on Saturday so you can save your bullpen if you used them in a close game on Friday, so you can have some guys come back on Sunday.”

TCU catcher Evan Skoug has liked what he’s seen from the lone freshman in the rotation, Nick Lodolo.

“The Tech start gives him something to lean on, something when he’s struggling he thinks ‘remember when I did this at Tech or against Baylor,’ and it’s big for him to have that experience because he’s done it now,” TCU catcher Evan Skoug said. “He knows he can do it, which is big for his confidence, his stuff has always been really good, but now he’s putting it all together now that he knows his defense and this ballpark.”

Just Lodolo, coming off two excellent outings against Baylor and Tech, is pitching at a high level with the start of the postseason three weeks away and No. 1 starter Jared Janczak not expected back from a shoulder strain until then. Schlossnagle said Janczak threw from 75 feet Wednesday and reported no problems.

Howard walked three and hit two batters in 2.1 innings last week against Texas Tech and has a 5.43 ERA through 12 starts.

Traver walked five and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score in 2.2 innings in his start last week.

Howard, TCU’s Saturday starter, has had a lot of expectations on him this season after the dazzling postseason he had to end 2016, but hasn’t had the regular season results he’s wanted thus far. But, his team still has a world of confidence in him.

“His numbers have never been where he wanted them to be, but the last five or six weeks of the season, he always steps it up, and I have no worries because he’s working hard and that he’s giving it his all, and he always competes,” Skoug said. “I know when crunch time comes he’s going to show up.”

Schlossnagle echoed his catcher’s sentiments.

“I don’t remember his numbers from this time last year, but I know he ended with ten wins, and I think he was the winning pitcher in his last five starts: Kansas State, Texas, Arizona State, Texas A&M, and Coastal Carolina and for him, it’s about his savvy, his command, his mound presence, and all of that stuff when he’s pitching,” Schlossnagle said. “I have big expectations for Howard and  Traver as well because when I put a player in the game or on the mound, I anticipate their best performance.”

Schlossnagle has said he’s looking for another potential starter come Big 12 and NCAA Tournament time.

“Right now, who’s the fourth starter?” Schlossnagled said. “I don’t know, we need to develop somebody.”

That search has led him to take a look at reliever Sean Wymer.

“He’s a weapon in the bullpen, but he’s tempting to start,” Schlossnagle said. “I don’t want to give up on anybody, but there may come a time when we have to look at Sean in that role.”

Wymer paces the Frogs in appearances with 19, all in relief, and is 2-2 with a 1.62 ERA and one save as the primary setup to closer Durbin Feltman. The sophomore right-hander has struck out 43 batters in 33 innings.

Wymer could receive an opportunity to start either in the weekend rotation or in the final midweek-game, May 16 against UT Arlington.

TCU begins a weekend series at Lupton Stadium tonight at 7 pm against the Texas Longhorns.