DeSclafani Earning a New Role

The Gators may have found their closer this weekend. After struggling through his sophomore season, right-hander Anthony DeSclafani has been the most dominant arm out of the Florida bullpen during the young season. His performance in important situations this weekend might have earned him the closer's role.

It started on Saturday afternoon. DeSclafani took over for Hudson Randall, who threw seven shutout innings and allowed only one hit. DeSclafani didn't allow a drop off, going two perfect innings and recording two strikeouts.

The Gators seemed to have Sunday's game in hand with a three-run lead in the ninth inning, but Steven Rodriguez walked the first two batters and O'Sullivan went to his bullpen again. It was an easy call in his mind. He brought DeSclafani out again, and he worked out of the jam to earn his first career save, one day after earning his first win of the season.

He also threw 1.2 scoreless innings on Tuesday against Florida State while recording three strikeouts.

The closer's role was fluid to start the beginning of the season, but O'Sullivan thinks that DeSclafani could be claiming it. Last year was a similar situation with Florida unsure of its closer to start the year. That's when Kevin Chapman came out of nowhere to record 11 saves and a 1.65 ERA. The left-hander was named All-SEC and a Third Team All-American before the Kansas City Royals selected him in the fourth round of the MLB Draft.

No one expects DeSclafani to make that kind of jump, but after his fast start, nothing would be a surprise.

"Sometimes your closer, like (Kevin) Chapman last year, develops as the season goes on," O'Sullivan said. "We might be seeing that with (DeSclafani) right now.

The difference from the 2010 season is tough to miss. DeSclafani was one of the most hittable pitchers on the 2010 staff, giving up 60 hits in 40.2 innings. His ERA skyrocketed to 7.08 and opponents his .347 off him.

This year has been the complete opposite. The junior has thrown 9.2 scoreless innings while allowing only four hits and recording ten strikeouts. He has walked one hitter and opponents are hitting .118 against him. DeSclafani is 2-0 with one save, also serving as one of the more versatile pitchers.

He is getting ground balls seemingly at will, and it comes from a natural growth on the mound.

"His stuff is a little better," O'Sullivan said. "He's throwing his breaking ball for strikes, and he's throwing his changeup for strikes. It's a matter of execution. He's executing and locating."

But the success isn't just because of the improvement to his pitches. It was also come through changes in his mindset.

"His demeanor and confidence level is light years better than what it was last year," O'Sullivan said. "It's just the normal progression some players make. He has made a huge jump from last year to this year."

DeSclafani's role for the rest of the season is up in the air, but his poise in the late innings showed that he is capable of handling the late-game pressure.

"Anywhere coach is going to put me, I'll be ready to go," DeSclafani said. "Whether I start, relieve or close, I'll be ready to go."

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