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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona bullpen will need to use courage, smarts to succeed

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs UCLA

The No. 11 Arizona baseball team’s bullpen is going to have to figure itself out if the Wildcats want to make any noise in the Pac-12 Conference.

Head coach Andy Lopez said it takes a combination of intelligence and courage to have success as a pitcher.

He knows the Wildcats’ older players, the junior core of the group, have these qualities, but he hasn’t seen them displayed by any of his bullpen staff.

“I told them to just give me one (intelligence or courage). I’ll supply the other,” Lopez said. “Really I’ll try.”

“If you say you’ve got intelligence that means you have a pitching plan, that means tell me what you’re planning. I haven’t seen it. If you’ve got courage then let me tell you what I want the pitching plan to be.”

If a player does not possess either of these qualities, then there isn’t a spot for him on Lopez’s roster. For his relievers to come out and shut down batters, they are going to need to disregard everything else and come out and do what they’re supposed to do.

“(The key is) making sure they understand the importance of concentration no matter what is going on,” Lopez said. “There could be gunfire right next to their ear, but their job is to (get on the mound) and throw strikes.”

At this point in his players’ lives, Lopez knows that this is not a hard task, and he tells them that.

“Your job is to get a college degree at a great institution and get on that little rubber there and throw a strike,” Lopez will tell his team. “It’s not jack-hammering the I-10 freeway or it’s not preventing bank robberies.”

Rickard’s injury woes should be short-lived

Arizona outfielder Joey Rickard bruised his knee on Saturday against Washington. He couldn’t play the rest of the game or Sunday’s game.

It was the first time in 157 games that Rickard didn’t start for the Wildcats.

Fortunately for the team, Rickard should be ready to go soon.

“Thank God it’s nothing major,” Lopez said. “He could be available this weekend in fact, but no surgeries needed. We were told after the MRI that he could be available on Friday.”

As a vital member of Arizona’s highly touted group of juniors, Rickard’s absence was definitely felt by his teammates.

“He’s our iron man,” Arizona pitcher Kurt Heyer said. “When we saw (pitcher) Vincent Littleman in left field, we thought, ‘What’s going on?’

“Hopefully he’ll be back by this Friday.”

With the non-conference series against East Tennessee State coming up, Lopez said if Rickard’s not feeling 100 percent, then he won’t play.

Heyer named to Pitcher of the Year list

With a 7-1 record and 1.96 ERA on the season, Heyer is one of 50 pitchers in the nation named to the preliminary Pitcher of the Year Watch List, an award given annually by the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

The junior phenom boasts a career total of 305 strikeouts, the highest in the nation for active pitchers.

He’s also fifth on the Arizona all-time start list, with 47 as a Wildcat.

The Pitcher of the Year will be announced June 30 In Lubbock, Texas, as part of the College Baseball Night of Champions.

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