Offseason position battle: UofL closer

College Baseball

In the final post in the “offseason position battle” series we will look at the vacant University of Louisville closer position.

The departed — Right-handed pitcher Neil Holland, a 2010 junior and Washington Nationals draftee, was 8-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 17 saves last season. The first-team all-Big East Conference reliever struck out 59 batters and walked 16 in 56 and one-third innings. Holland led Kentucky collegians in saves and was tied for third in appearances (29). The Nationals selected Holland with their pick in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. Holland was 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 19 games during his professional debut.

Returning candidates — Junior right-handed pitcher Tony Zych all but has the closer position wrapped up and is considered to be the top reliever draft prospect in college baseball. Zych was 5-2 with a 5.13 ERA in 2010, but was much more effective after head coach Dan McDonnell removed him from the starting rotation. As a freshman Zych saved two games for the Cards. This summer he was named a Cape Cod League all-star and received the postseason Cape awards for top draft prospect and top reliever…Senior right-handed pitcher Gabriel Shaw saved three games for UofL in 2010 and was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, including three starts. Shaw may move into the starting rotation for the Cards in 2011, but if he remains in the bullpen he could serve as a valuable insurance option to Zych. He struck out 41 batters and walked just eight in 46 and one-third innings last season. Shaw also saved three games for UofL as a sophomore in 2009.

Newcomers to watch — Freshman right-handed pitcher Dace Kime is the highest drafted player to attend a Kentucky college this season after turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates contract offer as the team’s eight-round pick. Kime could be a potent weekend reliever if he doesn’t break the starting rotation to begin the season…Freshman right-handed pitcher Chad Green was the 37th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. He struck out 107 batters as a senior in high school and should provide another strong arm in the Cards’ bullpen.

Wildcard — McDonnell has a plethora of starting pitcher candidates in redshirt sophomore Justin Amlung, junior Derek Self, redshirt sophomore Mike Nastold, sophomore Matt Koch, Kime, Green and Shaw. The loser of the battle between Amlung, Self, Nastold and Koch for the weekend rotation spots would present another valuable reliever for the Cards. Self was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 2010 when 19 of his 27 appearances came out of the bullpen.

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