The 2017 season was not a kind one for ASU baseball. The team failed to win 30 games for the first time in 54 years, breaking one of the greatest streaks in college baseball. And not escaping the inconsistencies was the Sun Devils’ pitching staff — one that saw 11 pitchers make a start in a rotation was never quite figured out.
Head coach Tracy “Skip” Smith tried to bring relievers like Reagan Todd, Chaz Montoya, Fitz Stadler and Connor Higgins into a starting role, sometimes for just a game, but consistent results were never achieved.
One of the biggest offseason moves made to change that script was bringing in a full-time pitching coach. Smith, who manned the role last season on top of his head coaching duties, went with experience, bringing in Mike Cather, a longtime pitching coach in the professional ranks whose last stop came as the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the Miami Marlins Organization.
“Having a guy there that’s dedicated to the pitching staff and being a part of that process at the professional level defiantly helps,” Smith said.
Players have raved about Cather so far, and not just for what he does with player’s mechanics. They often talk about his great coaching when it comes to their mindset on the mound, something that sounds even better coming out of the mouth of someone who has worked with as many big-leaguers as Cather.
Cather was supposed to make his ASU coaching debut on Friday but, due to travel complications for Miami (OH), the game was cancelled.
The game will be played on Sunday morning, instead, but Cather’s ASU coaching debut will be put on hold, along with sophomore Spencer Van Scoyoc’s 2018 premiere.
Smith said on Tuesday that Van Scoyoc would be the Friday starter and that senior Eli Lingos and freshman Boyd Vander Kooi would each make a start during the weekend. Beyond that, he did not allude to how the rotation will shake out, although senior Jake Godfrey will likely get a get a start this weekend, too.
Van Scoyoc started eight games a season ago, posting a 3.86 ERA in 28 innings pitched. But improvement throughout the summer vaulted him into the No. 1 spot. He described what changed from last year to this year.
“Just kind of growing into the mindset and the mentality that it takes to be a Friday night starter,” he said.
Smith has said that the rotation will be made up of the best guys, and according to him, the best way to find that out is through competition.
“I like the fact that we have a lot of guys who are about the same, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean it in a good way,” Smith said. “If you don’t have your best stuff, you’re probably not going to be in there very long, we’re going to get someone else.
“And that creates a little bit of a sense of urgency on the mound.”