As the Hurricanes baseball season begins tomorrow against Rutgers at renovated Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, questions about the starting rotation remain.
The Canes have a great chance to win every Friday night as they rely heavily on their sophomore ace Chris Hernandez. The southpaw had a phenomenal freshman campaign as he posted an 11-0 record and 2.72 ERA. He had more strikeouts than innings pitched and only allowed 15 extra base hits in 112 2/3 innings pitched.
“It’s a big burden,” said Hernandez, the reigning Baseball America National Freshman of the Year. “I think I can handle it, I like the pressure and I like being the leader of the team.”
Hernandez’s out pitch is his cutter and during the offseason he worked on perfecting his changeup and curveball.
This season will not be easy without sophomore pitcher Eric Erickson. The left-hander will miss the entire season due to reconstructive elbow surgery. “Easy E” was 19-3 in his first two seasons at UM and was shut down for precautionary reasons in the middle of last season before battling arm fatigue the entire postseason.
“Erickson was a huge loss,” head coach Jim Morris said. “When you have Chris Hernandez on Friday night and Eric Erickson on Saturday night, you expect to be 2-0 going into Sunday. It’s huge when you lose a guy you expect to win every night he’s on the mound.”
Junior right-hander David Gutierrez will replace Erickson in the Saturday slot. Gutierrez was 5-0, but had an above average 4.75 ERA. Last year he was a midweek starter facing lesser competition.
Sunday’s spot is still up in the air. Junior college transfer Taylor Wulf was set to get the nod, but Morris said the righty will be needed to help the bullpen.
Junior righty John Housey has an outside chance at cracking the weekend rotation. If not, he will be a valuable commodity in midweek games. Sophomore southpaw Iden Nazario will be in the weekday rotation as well. He must improve his control as he had seven walks in 11 1/3 innings pitched last season.