CWS Trip in 2011 Starts With Pitching

The Florida pitching staff gained valuable experience at the College World Series in Omaha. While it looked nothing like the unit that led the Gators to the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, most of the young pitching staff will return for the 2011 season.

The key losses will come in the bullpen. Closer Kevin Chapman finished his redshirt junior season with a 3-0 record, 1.65 ERA and 11 saves. His mid-90s fastball helped the left-hander record 44 strikeouts in 43-2/3 innings. Chapman's season earned him First Team All-SEC honors, and he became a 4th round selection of the Kansas City Royals.

Senior right-hander Jeff Barfield became an important situational bullpen pitcher at the end of the season. He ended the year 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA.

These are the only two pitchers that the Florida staff will likely lose for next season. Transfers and injuries are always possible, but the depth expected to return should give the Gators one of the deepest pitching staffs in the country.

One pitcher to keep an eye on is redshirt sophomore Tommy Toledo. He was a 3rd round pick by the San Diego Padres out of high school and missed his second season on campus with a torn labrum. The right-hander started 2010 as the Florida ace, but a line drive to the face in mid-March caused him to miss most of the season.

The Minnesota Twins selected Toledo in the 32nd round of the draft, and it wouldn't be shocking if he decided to sign.

Florida will return their three weekend starting pitchers for next season, so there isn't room for Toledo to step back into the rotation. Sophomore Alex Panteliodis (11-3, 3.51), freshman Hudson Randall (8-4, 3.24) and freshman Brian Johnson (6-4, 4.03) will all return in 2011, and all three would be difficult to push out of the rotation.

Panteliodis was the anchor of the staff all season. With help from a velocity increase before the 2010 season started, he went toe-to-toe with the ace of every team in the SEC and only lost to two of them.

Randall stepped into the weekend rotation after Toledo was injured. The right-hander posted a 2.63 ERA in SEC play, good for the lowest of any pitcher in the conference.

Johnson will go into 2011 as the front-runner to be the Friday night starting pitcher. He has the most electric stuff out of the three, and he is expected to add a pitch to his arsenal for next season. He survived with a fastball, curveball and changeup in 2010, but the hope is that a slider will make him a dominant ace.

2011 freshman Daniel Gibson will push for innings, and they could come as a midweek starter. The Tampa Jesuit graduate is already on campus. During his junior year of high school, he threw consistently in the upper 80s. He got a jump in his velocity before his senior year, moving consistently into the low 90s. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted Gibson in the 26th round, but he is not expected to sign.

The San Diego Padres took Felix Varela High School pitcher John Barbato in the 6th round, but he is currently on campus at Florida taking summer classes. He would get valuable innings if the Gators can hold on to him.

Chipley High School right-hander Karsten Whitson (No. 9 overall to San Diego) and Suffern (NY) High School right-hander Robbie Aviles (7th round to Cleveland) are not on campus yet, and it would be a surprise if either made it to Gainesville.

The roles in the bullpen aren't clearly defined for 2011, but that is what the offseason and fall practices are for. The first objective will be to find a closer to replace Chapman. While it will be difficult to duplicate the numbers Chapman produced, freshman left-hander Steven Rodriguez and sophomore right-hander Greg Larson seem to be the front-runners.

Rodriguez's cutter gets in on the handle of right-handed hitters and moves towards the end of the bat against left-handed hitters, which is why he records weak ground balls at will. Larson uses his sinker and low 90s fastball to force the opposition to pound the ball into the ground.

Sophomore Nick Maronde could be the dark horse. He went into the 2010 season as the closer, but control problems forced him to lose the job. The left-hander disappeared through the season, as he walked 24 batters in 26-1/3 innings pitched. He also struck out 37 batters, so when the control was good, the strikeouts followed.


Friday: LHP Brian Johnson
Saturday: RHP Hudson Randall
Sunday: LHP Alex Panteliodis
Midweek: LHP Daniel Gibson

Set-up: RHP Greg Larson
Closer: LHP Steven Rodriguez

Fightin Gators Top Stories