Weatherford Ready For First State Start

Aaron Weatherford actually grins at the suggestion he should be feeling the pressure, showing the nerves, changing his routines, all that stuff. Sure, he is about to make his first college start, the rookie righthander agrees. But, really, "It's just another day. Go out and do it."

Just another day? How dare this kid call a Friday night in the SEC ‘just another day'? Especially as he takes the hill in a venue that would have veteran moundmen twitching, on behalf of a ball club in near-desperate need of success? Just another day?

Indeed. The Mississippi State freshman doesn't downplay the situation or deny the significance that he is being entrusted with a serious responsibility. Yet this pup is going to South Carolina showing an old Dog's poise.

"It's just pitching. I've been there before, been in key situations. You just have to get used to it and go out and do it!"

Weatherford has been doing his job this season, just not as a starter. The freshman has been a bulwark out of the bullpen, in either long or sometimes late relief. He has made 14 appearances with 27 innings, and averaged less than a hit per frame. Even better, his strikeout-walk ratio is 10-to-1 and he has won all four of his decisions.

With such efficiency, not to mention a fastball consistently in the 91-94 range setting up a tough change, Weatherford knew he was being measured for a larger role. And with State's usual weekend starters struggling lately, and this week getting considerable Tuesday-Wednesday innings, he already figured he had a chance to open a SEC game soon. Thus he was not surprised when pitching Coach Russ McNickle gave him the word early this week.

"When Coach McNickle told me it was like ‘there's a pretty good chance you're going to start.' I was excited and just ready to do it. I've been fortunate enough to do well and in the position we're at they feel comfortable I can step in and do that. So I'm happy to be in a position to do that. I'm grateful for the opportunity."

Coach Ron Polk confirmed the starting job Wednesday night, so Weatherford has had a whole day to think about his Friday night opportunity. Yet he claims he won't prepare any differently, either physically or emotionally. "It doesn't change my approach at all. I know what I have to do. It will definitely be earlier in the weekend. I guess now I know where I'm going to throw, in relief you never have any idea, you have to be ready at all times.

"Now you know to get mentally prepared and ready to go. I know what I've got and what I need to use, what my strengths are. And I'm going to go after people with that."

So far most of Weatherford's SEC innings have come in Saturday and Sunday games; that is, in the daylight hours. But he's thrown enough midweek relief in evenings that working under lights ought not be an issue. Nor is he bothered that he has to make his first start far from home, in a hostile setting. Hey, it might even help, he says. "It doesn't really matter, I'm just happy to get a start! Wherever it is is fine.

"I'm going to feed off the energy and Friday nights are usually pretty good crowds, pretty energetic. I like that!"

It's just that…well, Weatherford isn't acting excited. He's taking his promotion entirely in stride, so much so that he almost has to be reminded this really is a Big Deal. A SEC Friday night and all that. The suggest draws another grin. "I'm excited about it. It's going to be a big event and something I've dreamed about.

"I'm thankful to get the opportunity and hopefully I can perform well enough that I can hold on to that job. We'll see."

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