Tiger Pitcher Adapting To New Role

This young right-hander for the Auburn baseball pitching staff discusses his new role and this weekend's challenging three-game road trip to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators.

Auburn, Ala.--Adapting to a new role is not always easy. For a pitcher the move from the starting rotation to the bullpen is perhaps the most difficult change to make.

That's just what sophomore Cory Dueitt had to face early this baseball season when Coach Steve Renfroe and his staff decided to bring Eric Brandon out of the bullpen and insert him back into the starting rotation, a spot he held to open the 2001 season before being moved to the closer's role.

The moves have are looking good so far as Brandon has settled back into being a starter and Dueitt has solidified his role as the closer for Auburn in just a short period of time. Both have played key roles in Auburn posting a 20-6 overall record and a 4-2 start in Southeastern Conference play.

"It's tough just because you want to be in the game pitching," Dueitt notes. "But it's fun watching the guys get out there and be successful like they've been. Plus, when you're down there as a closer you want to have a lead so you can get in the game late. Right now our starters are doing a good job of giving us six, seven or eight innings and giving our bullpen a chance to finish the game."

"It's mainly in your head," he says on a key to learning his new role. "You have to make sure you're prepared for every game. As a starter you're coming in and you pretty much get prepared for one day and after that you're pretty much done for the weekend. As a closer you have to be prepared Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You never know when you're going to get in, how many innings you're going to throw, how many days in a week you're going to pitch. It's more of a mental struggle just to keep you're head in the game at all times."

With a record of 3-0 on the season, two saves and an ERA of 3.32, the Hoover native says that he's settling into the role out of the bullpen. Along with redshirt freshman Kenny Clayton, Dueitt has given the Tigers some punch coming out of the pen in terms of strikeouts to walks ratio. In most coaches' eyes, that is one of the more important things that is used to determine a reliever's effectiveness. With a combined 48 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 39 innings this season, Dueitt and Clayton have done their job well.

Dueitt is shown in action during last year's NCAA Regional in Tallhassee, Fla.

"We're trying to come in and if there are runners on base we try to get out of it without letting them score," Dueitt says. "We're doing a real good job of not walking people right now. Our whole staff is. We're trying to keep guys off base. We've talked about that from day one. We have to keep doing that. As long as we keep our walks down we're going to be successful. As long as we're going after people, we take pride in that. That's what Coach (Mark) Fuller says-- ‘get ahead with strike one.' Right now we're doing a good job of that and keeping guys off base."

The duo had the opportunity to succeed handed to them Sunday afternoon in Knoxville as starter Colby Paxton came out of the game in the sixth inning with Auburn leading just 3-1. Both Clayton and Dueitt did their job as they didn't allow another run the rest of the way giving Auburn a big series win on the road, something not easy to come by in SEC play.

Cory Dueitt "No matter where you are playing in the SEC, when you're on the road and you get two out of three then you've accomplished something," Dueitt notes. "Going up there we said we had to get two out of three just because it's a two game swing. If we go out there and get one out of three then we're back at .500 in the SEC and 4-2 sounds a lot better than 3-3. And, we wanted to get some confidence heading into Florida. They're playing good right now and it's going to be a great weekend coming up."

The stakes get higher this weekend for the Tigers when they face the Gators in Gainesville. Coming off a series loss at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks, the Top 10 Florida team will be looking for redemption against the Tigers. For Auburn that means facing a lineup that is as potent as any the Tigers have faced in recent seasons. With a team batting average of .396 and 56 home runs, Florida will be the ultimate test for this pitching staff but that's just fine with Dueitt.

"It's kind of fun," he says of facing the high-powered Florida attack. "You have to look at it as a challenge. Everybody is talking about how good they are swinging it right now. It's going to be fun going down there and seeing how good they are. If we go down there and we pitch like we've been pitching and not walking guys and keeping guys off bases, I think we'll be alright."


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