Tigers Shake Up Pitching Rotation

Auburn Coach Tomm Slater talks about a change in the pitching rotation for the upcoming series against Ole Miss.

Auburn, Ala.--Looking to strengthen a bullpen that has struggled in recent weeks while also getting a hot pitcher into the starting rotation, the Auburn Tigers (19-9, 0-6) will make change this weekend against the Ole Miss Rebels (19-8, 4-3) as freshman Taylor Thompson moves into the rotation while sophomore Bryan Woodall will work out of the bullpen.

Coach Tommy Slater says the move isn't about a lack of production from Woodall, but something designed to strengthen the entire staff as the Tigers prepare for a three-game series at Plainsman Park.

The Tigers will use sophomore Paul Burnside to open the series on Friday night with fellow sophomore Evan Crawford on Saturday. Thompson will then get the call on Sunday in his first SEC start. Slater says a lot of thought went into the move, and he feels like it's the best thing for his team at the moment.

"At the point in the season when we were 18-3, one of the strong points of our ball club was our bullpen," Slater says. "Our bullpen was really strong. Lately our bullpen has not been as good. It's as simple as that. Woodall, we feel, will strengthen our bullpen. Of all our starters, he's the guy who is most capable of moving to the bullpen and being a guy that can pitch multiple times in a weekend.

This season Woodall is 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA

"Burnside, even though he did it for us a year ago, really never was as good the second time as he was the first time," he adds. "Crawford has never been a guy who bounces back quickly. Taylor is not a guy who bounces back on a day's rest. Woody, a sinker and slider guy, always feels great the day after he pitches or two days after he pitches. He's going to bounce back well. We're not looking at it as a demotion for him, we're looking at it as something to help strengthen our bullpen by taking one of our best guys and having him help strengthen our bullpen a little bit."

Currently 3-0 on the year after allowing just one earned run in six innings in a 5-1 victory over Mercer Tuesday night, Thompson has come on strong this spring as Auburn's regular mid-week starter. In 29 innings, the Montgomery native has allowed just 12 earned runs and 29 hits while striking out 27. This weekend will be a big challenge, but Slater says he feels like his freshman is ready.

"Taylor has been throwing the ball really, really well for us in the middle of the week," Slater says. "That enables us to think about making a change. He threw the ball really well again on Tuesday and he only threw 75 pitches in six innings. He'll be fine to bounce back on Sunday after four days rest. He'll be in great shape for that."

Thompson and the Tigers take on Ole Miss beginning Friday at 6 p.m. Game times are scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Auburn will be looking to end a 16-game losing streak in SEC play and get back into the Western Division race.

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