Frank Rubio enters his senior season with a great deal of excitement, but wondering just where all the time went in his career.
“I was thinking about it earlier today… I was laughing to myself and saying ‘wow, it’s gone by quick’,” he said of his first three years on campus. “I definitely didn’t expect it to go by this quick. But, it’s been good and I‘m thankful for it.
Rubio has been the epitome of consistency in his work habits as a Gator. Deciding to walk-on at Florida with several big time prospects that he knew would play ahead of him in the beginning instead of going somewhere else where things might be easier. All he did was set his mind on getting better every year and now he’s on the cusp of what he hopes will be a big season for him and his team.
“It was exactly what I had planned on doing,” he said of his career path at Florida. “I came in here thinking I may not get a chance to play for a significant time… a couple of years. My goal was to earn more and more (playing time) every year. I almost doubled it every year. That was my goal coming in. Whether or not I achieve it, I think I will get pretty close, so I am pretty satisfied with that.”
Rubio says just paying attention to what everyone else was doing and working on the little things in his pitching have brought him around to this point.
“Really just being around the guys here,” he said when asked how he accomplished getting to this point. “Coming in I really wasn’t throwing that hard and just being around guys that threw 95, just trying to really learn from everybody. Sitting in the bullpen next to Sully, watching guys throw and just taking in as much as I can.”
It was never going to be easy for Rubio who was a part of a freshman class that was mostly just drafted by the Major Leagues last summer.
“It’s extremely hard,” he said about being a walk-on with that recruiting class. “Looking back there are a couple of guys that I see now that are kind of in a similar situation. I think maybe mine was a little tougher. I came in with 15 recruits. It is definitely tough. You definitely have to worry about yourself. You can’t get caught up in a guy like A.J. Puk coming in with all the hype and throwing like 95 and you are throwing like 87 from the right side. You really have to worry about yourself. You can’t get caught up in everybody else.”
He’s worked his way every year to more and more playing time and now he has some goals that he wants to meet to show just how valuable he can be to this team.
“For this season… I try to keep some lofty goals,” he said. “I would like to lead the bullpen in appearances. I would like to take that leadership role in the bullpen. I think our bullpen could use it for sure. Definitely as a staff, we talked a little bit about it… last year’s staff was pretty talented, I still would like to at least meet with what last year’s staff did. That is probably lofty. We don’t have as much hype as last year’s staff, but I think the numbers we set, maybe not the strikeouts, but as far as the success of the pitching staff as a whole is a good benchmark.”
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is expecting a lot from his sidearm right-hander.
"I’ll tell you what… he's going to be very, very valuable for us this year,” O’Sullivan said. “I see him probably leading our team in appearances. He's so much improved, and he's one of the only two seniors we have on our roster. Like I said, he'll probably lead our team in appearances.
“He's a different look -- he's from down under -- he throws up to 92-93. It's totally different, and it's very, very refreshing and reassuring to have him down in the pen because I think we are going to be young in the bullpen. So I look forward to running him out there the first weekend and he'll be pitching in some very, very valuable, very stressful innings. I think when the game's on the line or we need to get an out toward the latter part of the game, I think right now he's probably our best option."
Rubio could be called on to close or come in anywhere in the middle of the game. He doesn’t have a preference.
“I think the big thing with the closer, it’s more based on the stats,” he said. “The closer gets a stat, where as someone who’s not in the closer role, doesn’t get that save stat. Whenever Sully is going to give me the ball, I’m going to take it… it’s that simple. Whether that’s the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th …whenever he gives me the ball, I’m going to take it and be happy with it.”
And Sully likes the leadership Rubio displays each and every day.
“There's a lot of comfort level with me and with him,” O’Sullivan said. “I think he's going to have a great year. I think he's going to pitch beyond Florida, I think he's going to get a chance to pitch professionally and like I said, with him and Ryan being our only seniors on our team, I love the fact that we're able to get back a couple of those guys because they really, really make a difference in your program."