#TGW: Five Questions With Jason Howell
GT's Pitching Coach feeling good about staff heading into 2015 season
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Sometimes the unknown isn't as scary as advertised. Sometimes, the challenge of facing it can feel downright invigorating!
With Opening Day only two days away unknown still best describes Georgia Tech baseball's pitching staff, from its starting rotation and the back end of the bullpen. It's understandable with both, as two projected mainstays in the rotation, lefty Jonathan King and righty Cole Pitts are coming off major injuries -- King, a torn ligament in his left shoulder which did not require surgery, Pitts, a torn ligament in his right elbow, which required Tommy John Surgery. Meanwhile in the `pen, both of last year's stalwarts, righty Dusty Isaacs and lefty Sam Clay are about to report to South Florida for Spring Training, Isaacs in Bradenton with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clay in Fort Myers with the Minnesota Twins. Isaacs and Clay combined for 15 of the team's 18 saves, which tied for third in the ACC.
Yet with more positions up for grabs than set, third-year pitching coach, Jason Howell is more confident in the staff than at any point in his tenure.
Howell took a few minutes to talk with The Good Word about his belief in the rotation as Opening Day approaches, the starter's belief in the bullpen and the bullpen's belief in each other. (Ramblinwreck.com will preview the bullpen and the starters in the coming days).
THE GOOD WORD: With Opening Day on Friday, how do you think the staff looks?
Jason Howell: I like our guys, especially from a depth standpoint. In years past, I think we've all felt we're sort of one arm away or X number of innings away from really making a lot of noise in the postseason. This season we feel like we have a lot of guys we feel like can come in and fit in a lot of different roles. Saying that, I don't know right now where those roles are going or fit and I can see a lot of changes throughout the year, but from a depth standpoint, it's really nice to see there are several guys that can go out there and do some good things for us.
TGW: How important is the leadership of upperclassmen Devin Stanton, Jonathan King, and Cole Pitts in the rotation?
HOWELL: Everybody looks really good. Obviously, it's always nice to have those guys. Having Dusty Isaacs in the bullpen last year was a huge plus for us, with his leadership that he brought on the field and off of it and having a couple more of those guys added in, you can just tell it has affected the young guys. So all that's been a plus with Stanton and Pitts and King all back with us.
TGW: Who do you see stepping up the bullpen to replace Dusty and Sam?
HOWELL: I think a lot of guys are going to have a chance to fit into those roles as well as one or two of the starting roles. Ben Schniederjans has shown some great stuff as both. Matthew Gorst has done the same, Tanner Shelton has shown flashes. Zac Ryan has an electric arm and he's another one that the more he gets out there and throws the better that he looks. So I think there are a lot of options that we can roll out there. It's just a matter of finally getting into some games and letting those guys go and do their thing.
TGW: The starters all have expressed confidence in the bullpen. Do you share that confidence?
HOWELL: I do. It's a great example of a machine in a working car. Each one turning off of each other. A lot of guys that can kind of roll in, maybe not for prolonged stints but you don't really feel like you're missing a beat with whoever you put in there. Last year a lot it was Dusty and it was Sam and it was Dusty and it was Sam and it was Sam and it was Dusty. This year I think you can see a lot of things that are going to fit right into that and get some innings and appearances for us.
TGW: How do you see the freshmen fitting in?
HOWELL: Bringing in the guys that we've brought in, obviously, several of them coming in were hurt in here, so you might see a [Cody] Worthy or a [Daniel] Gooden later on in the year as they start to recover health-wise and Patrick Wiseman is the same. He came in beat up a little bit and as he's thrown more he's looked a lot better. The one kid that has thrown with a lot of consistency that came in healthy and has stayed healthy has been [Jared] Datoc. So we're looking for some big things out of him. He's just a great little competitor and he's going to be exciting. All the freshmen, when all's said and done and are healthy they're going to contribute a lot.
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