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Florida baseball season preview: Relief pitching

FrankRubio

-Photo by Jordan McPherson

The second part of our four-part series breaking down the UF baseball team focuses on Florida’s bullpen.

Senior Frank Rubio

Career stats: 3-2 record in 41 appearances, 3.77 ERA, 62 innings pitched, 32 strikeouts, 13 walks

Outlook: Expect to see a lot of Frank Rubio this season. The senior walk-on and former St. Thomas Aquinas standout is arguably the most polished of Florida’s bullpen pitchers, and coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he won’t be afraid to throw the sidearm righty on the mound. Rubio has seen his workload increase each year he has been with the team and has seen his arsenal of pitches become more polished as well. His fastball touches 93 mph and his slider is a quality strike-inducing pitch. 

 

Freshman Andrew Baker

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Baker, a 5-9 lefty, has been making a solid case to become Florida’s closer throughout fall and spring practice. He has three quality pitches in his arsenal, including a fastball that touches 92 mph, a changeup that sits between 85 and 87 mph and an offspeed slider that mystifies batters when it crosses the plate. During the first scrimmage he participated in this spring on Jan. 27, Baker retired all three batters he faced and used his slider to strike out two of those batters. Baker will also have the opportunity to produce in the field as an outfielder.

Sophomore Michael Byrne

Career stats: 0-1 record in 13 appearances, 3.94 ERA, 16 innings pitched, 15 strikeouts, 3 walks

Outlook: Byrne was used sporadically as a freshman, mostly as a setup guy in games that were out of hand one way or another, but could become a valuable asset early as one of the few bullpen players with experience.

Junior David Lee

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Lee, a former high school standout at Gainesville’s Buchholz, is now at his third college in as many years. In two combined seasons at FIU and Sante Fe Community College, the 6-4 righty went 8-4 and pitched 90.2 innings. His experience and three-pitch mix -- including a 93 mph fastball, breaking ball and changeup -- will be valuable out of the bullpen.

Freshman Billy McKay

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: McKay is an intriguing prospect. The 5-11 righty is a sidearm thrower, which will give opposing batters another matchup to face. He’s been relatively consistent throughout the spring and should compete for innings.

Freshman Cole Maye

Career stats: N/A

Outlook: Maye graduated from high school a semester early to join the Gators and that commitment could prove to his benefit. He’s a 6-7 lefty, similar in size and stature to former rotation starter and first-round draft pick A.J. Puk. Unlike Puk, however, Maye’s fastball only hovers around the 88 mph range. His main priority at this point is mastering his command.

Junior Nick Horvath

Career stats: 2-1 record in 15 appearances, 2.08 ERA, 13 innings pitches, 8 strikeouts, 5 walks

Outlook: Horvath is another two-way player who can contribute on the mound and in the field. He had minimal time on the mound in 2015 but could see some playing time early, especially since he’s the lone lefty on the team with collegiate experience.

Other pitchers available

Freshman RHP/OF Kirby McMullen

Freshman INF/RHP Garrett Milchin

Freshman OF/RHP Austin Bodrato

Freshman OF/LHP Austin Langworthy

Overall Evaluation

The bullpen doesn’t have a sure-fire name on the roster like Florida did with last year with Dane Dunning, Kirby Snead or Shaun Anderson yet, but it more than likely will a couple weeks into the season. Rubio and Baker should provide a quality one-two punch as closers and the rest of the staff has the potential to make big strides early. And remember, Shaun Anderson didn’t begin to emerge as the staff’s closer last year until the third weekend of the season.

Wednesday's breakdown will take a look at Florida's infield.

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