Whatever and whenever the call, this Diamond Dog rookie will be ready. “It’s just going out there and doing the same thing I do,” Ashcraft said.
Mississippi State coaches can count on that. Andy Cannizaro and Gary Henderson are simply going to let this series at Oregon get going—Konnor Pilkington takes the ball first Friday—and let the script settle itself through the weekend. If this means calling on righty Ashcraft to slam a door in game-one; or perhaps take over mid-stream Saturday;
Or even save him entirely to start Sunday…well, it’s called playing it by ear and by situation. Though it’s surely tempting to let this hardest-throwing Dog save his stuff for the closing condition.
How do you think your stuff will translate from starting to a relief role? Graham Ashcraft: “Really it’s just going out there and doing the same thing that I do. Just go out there and try to pound the zone. I think coming out of the pen might give me a little bit more of a rush, because of not having to go out there and try to last the whole game. I’m going out there to try to just get one, two innings in.
“So stuff may be a little bit more ‘live’, I don’t know how it is because I haven’t come out of the bullpen yet. But I’m excited about it. It’s going to be more of an adrenalin rush coming out of the bullpen in a clutch situation like that.”
Coach said you can get the fastball up to 95, 100. So how much were you saving that in a starter’s role? “When I start it’s not like I’m trying to save it up. I just go out there and throw. I’m not trying to rear-back and for all means try to throw as hard as I can. I’m just trying to go out there and throw strikes and do what I can do.
“But coming out as a reliever I feel I’m still going to do the same thing. But I might have a little bit extra gas in the tank to be able to rear-back and see what happens.”
Is it nice your coaches have confidence in you can start on Sunday, or on Friday close a game? “It makes me feel really good to see the coaches have that much confidence in me. That I can run out there any time of the game and do what I can do and hopefully help the team.”
Do you have a preference? “No. I just want to be able to go out there and throw. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m starting, relieving, closing as long as I can go out there and help the team that’s all that matters to me.”
From a preparation standpoint what is the difference? “Starting is more you’re having to get your head right and make sure you’re not going out there and are too amped-up. Because you’ve got a couple of innings to go through.
“And then when it’s in a reliever role, you can go out there and get ready to go like you’re getting ready to fight somebody! And go out there and throw it as hard as you can, throw the best pitches you have just to see how it goes.”
So how high can the fastball get in a bullpen situation? “I can’t really answer that. Because I haven’t been in that situation yet! But if it happens this weekend, we’ll see.”
Starting pitchers are creatures of habit, are you a little concerned?
“I don’t really think it’s going to be that big of a difference to me. I mean, I’m just going to go out there. Whenever I feel like I’m going to be ready to throw, that’s when I’m going to start getting my mindset to OK, I need to be dominant, I need to go keep the ball low and make sure I’m throwing strikes. At the same point I’m going to have that big adrenalin rush out there where it’s going to get me amped up.”