To be a successful closer on any level, it's often said you have to have a certain kind of mentality.
Obviously, it helps to be able to throw hard. It also helps to be intimidating on the mound. And of course, it helps to be able to quickly forget an unsuccessful attempt to close a game.
One look at new Clemson closer Steve Richard, who stands in at 6-2, 225 pounds, and its easy to see he fits that role perfectly.
Richard transferred to Clemson from Maine, where he compiled a 13-3 record to go along with a 2.49 ERA in 31 appearances (26 starts/170.0 innings) through the last two seasons.
However at Clemson, joining a staff that already is stocked with starting pitching talent, Richard will move from a starter into the bullpen as the Tigers' fulltime closer.
"It's something I always wanted to do," Richard told CUTigers.com. "I talked with coach Leggett and we talked about it. We thought it would be a good role for me. We have a lot of good arms on this team (already)."
Last year, the Tigers used a closer-by-committee approach, with several pitchers given the opportunity to lock down the role through the course of the season. More times than not, whichever pitcher had the "hot hand" was usually the one that would get the call in the ninth inning with the game on the line.
Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't.
However this year, that role solely belongs to Richard.
"He's our guy right now," pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan said when asked if Richard's role was experimental. "He throws hard. Works hard. We're going to see what he can do."
Through preseason practice, several of Richard's teammates have already noticed what he exactly brings to the table.
"He throws a very heavy ball," said senior third baseman Herman Demmink. "It's hard to pick up and he has a lot of velocity and his split finger is fantastic. Coming into the season, having somebody in that role, gives you the feeling that you are going to get that win."
All that's left for the junior transfer now is to settle into his new role with the game on the line.
Easier said than done, but so far, Richard seems to be taking the right approach.
"I think I can be successful," he said. "That's my mentality, to throw hard right out of the gates. I think it fits my personality really well. I'm looking forward to just being out there at the end of the game.
"I like to throw my fastball but I'm confident in throwing all three of my pitches at any point in the count."
The good news for Clemson fans is that if Richard's confidence remains high throughout the course of the upcoming season, he very well could be the difference between a team that makes it back to a Super Regional, and a team that makes it to Omaha for the College World Series for the first time since 2002.
Richard Aiming for Closer's Mentality
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