McKean putting up zeros during fall practice

All baseball players spend their summers attempting to get better, albeit by different methods. Most play in wood bat leagues to hone their skills, but one Rebel decided to stay in Oxford. So far, that move has paid dividends.

Rory McKean decided against extra games and instead concentrated on the classroom and the weightroom. The extra strength has elevated McKean's game and has him thriving during fall practice.

The redshirt sophomore has allowed just one earned run in 16 innings pitched. This impressive run has the right-hander in the mix for mound time.

"He has done a terrific job of throwing a lot of strikes with three different pitches," Mike Bianco said. "The changeup has been a big pitch for him this fall. His velocity has maintained in the mid-to-upper 80s where in previous years, his fastball would dip into the low 80s. He has really matured and gotten better."

The improvement can be attributed to another year in the system and McKean's summer work ethic.

"While I was staying to take class, I gained about 10 lbs. in the weight room and am trying to throw more innings and stay healthy," he said. "A goal was to improve velocity and get in better physical shape. That will help me out in the long run."

With the competition unforgiving between a plethora of capable arms, McKean is attempting to log more innings than in 2007. The Montgomery, Ala., native pitched well in limited action last season.

McKean allowed one earned run in three innings pitched. He walked two and struckout a hitter.

"It was nice to get out there and get a taste of SEC baseball," McKean said. "Obviously, I would like to get out there more than three or four times, but it was great to see the competition in this league. It is amazing how hard you have to work to be one of the guys. Hopefully this summer and fall will pay off, and I get some more innings and contribute."

The velocity is what sticks out to Bianco, but McKean is working hard on developing his offspeed pitches and control. That has been easier due to getting more innings and consistent work against live hitters. His improved fitness is also helping McKean's stamina and ability to bounce back between outings.

"Overall, I feel a lot better on a day-to-day basis," McKean said. "I'm not as tired during the week and feel that my legs are under me when I'm out there throwing."

As solid as McKean has been, he knows that throwing well in October doesn't relate to throwing well in March. However, there are positives that can be taken.

"We have so many guys that can throw," McKean said. "It is only October, but that confidence will maybe carry over and translate into a successful spring. We will play five games a week, so I need to play well and be one of those guys that gets considerable innings."

Confidence for McKean is easy. It is the opposing hitters that are having problems.

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