Part two of our season preview comes to you a full two weeks into the season, where the Commodores are an impressive 8-1 and ranked #2 in the country by ESPN/USA Today. After surveying a group of pitchers who are all capable of quality starts and long innings, we'll take a look at Tim Corbin's shutdown crew from the bullpen. Players like Navery Moore, Will Clinard, and Mark Lamm lead a talented squad who will be supplemented in long relief situations by some of the team's less-used starters.
So far, Vanderbilt's relievers have combined for five saves and have been an instrumental part in the team's come-from-behind victories. A deep staff of emerging veterans and talent-laden newcomers make up the corps in charge of protecting leads for guys like Sonny Gray and Grayson Garvin. Today, we'll look at the guys who will have a major impact on the 'Dores quest for Omaha.
Closer: Navery Moore - Moore, one of two key Commodore relievers on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, has shown no ill effects from his formerly bum elbow this season. The junior has lit up the radar gun with his work in the ninth inning and has emerged as this team's primary option to close out games. Moore has been clocked at up to 99 miles per hour with his fastball in games this season and offers a power arm to overwhelm batters late in the game. He offers a curveball and changeup behind that don't have the same pop as his fastball, but are useful, still-developing tools for the young pitcher. He's similar to an Armando Benitez-type closer (only without the gout), thanks to his speed and occasional issues with control.
Closer/Set-up: Will Clinard - Clinard is option 1b in the ninth inning, and appears to be in line to get the call on nights where Moore needs rest. The redshirt sophomore earned the coaching staff's trust after a solid freshman season where he put up a 2.68 ERA in 21 appearances and was named a Top 100 Prospect at the Cape Cod Summer League in 2010. His big frame helps him get up to 92 mph on his fastball and a solid complimentary arsenal of above-average pitches - curveball and changeup - make him a solid and consistent choice in the bullpen.
Set-up: Mark Lamm - Lamm is the other Tommy John recipient in the bullpen, and like Moore he's showing signs that he has returned to full strength. A potential early-round pick in the MLB Draft, Lamm is a redshirt senior who has the potential to be effective in both short and long relief - though it appears that he'll be working the eighth inning for now. After struggling to find his location in 2009, the big righty has regained his composure impressively, failing to walk any batters over six appearances so far in 2011. On Fridays, he'll be the bridge between Sonny Gray and Navery Moore against some of the SEC's best teams.
Reliever: Corey Williams - Williams is on the comeback trail from a gruesome/awesome 2010 injury. In case you forgot:
Fortunately, Williams is back at full strength in 2011. He recently had a shaky starting performance against Western Kentucky (3.1 IP, 5 ER) but had been solid out of the bullpen before that (3.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 K). He's a lefty who scrapes 90-91 mph with his fastball but balances that with strong breaking pitches, particularly a hard slider that he can use to escape jams. Evidently, he's also got balls made out of adamantium, as shown above.
Reliever: Keenan Kolinsky - Kolinsky started his NCAA career off with 1.2 hitless innings against Stanford, but couldn't keep that momentum going versus Western Kentucky, where he allowed two inherited runners to score without recording an out. Still, he's a terrific athlete who dazzled in New England this summer (1.27 ERA) and is able to keep batters off balance with a steady diet of junk. Despite, or maybe as a result of, his stocky build, Kolinsky's fastball sits in the mid/high 80s, but the redshirt freshman is still developing and could even see time as a utility player for the 'Dores. The movement on his curve and changeup is encouraging, and he'll have the the opportunity to work plenty of innings over the course of the season to see what develops.
Reliever: Sam Selman - Selman is a big time prospect with the frame of a MLB starter - though he needs to pack on more muscle if he wants to handle a starter's workload. He saw action in only four games as a freshman but should get more opportunities in 2011, in relief and possibly as a spot starter. He's got a live fastball that kicks into the 90s and a solid changeup and curve behind that, but issues with control may limit his effectiveness. The former All-American has as much potential as nearly anyone else on this pitching staff, and he'll have at least another year to develop it. For now, he'll get the chance to prove himself in short outings first.
Reliever: Steven Rice - Rice's tenure at Vanderbilt has gotten off to a rocky start (0 outs recorded, four walks, current era: infinite) but the freshman lefty will have time to adjust to the game thanks to Vanderbilt's depth in the 'pen. The freshman is a diminutive presence on the mound who relies on movement and accuracy in his pitches rather than power. He'll have to address his control problems to make an impact in 2011.
Reliever: Robert Hansen - Hansen is another small-ish guy for the Commodores, but unlike Rice possesses a fastball that tails into the high 80s on the radar gun. He was a 45th round pick for the Cardinals last year, and will likely see brief action unless he can scale the depth chart quickly.