It’s been a rough two weeks for San Diego. Not only did the Toreros drop back-to-back series against San Diego State and Rice, but they lost two of their best players for the rest of the season. Ace lefthander Sammy Solis, the No. 5 prospect in the sophomore class entering the season, has a herniated disc in his lower back, and center fielder/leadoff man Kevin Muno broke the third and fourth metacarpals in his left hand when Rice righty Ryan Berry hit him with a pitch Friday.
"(Solis is) getting a steroid injection, they’re saying he could be ready in a couple of months, but we’re not going to push him–he’s too valuable for us," USD pitching coach Eric Valenzuela said. "That means we’ll have to swallow what’s coming."
The Toreros still have a strong one-two punch atop the rotation in righthanders Kyle Blair and Matt Thomson, and junior righty A.J. Griffin has the four-pitch repertoire and endurance to move from the closer role to the Sunday starter role if necessary. Griffin threw eight shutout innings in San Diego’s win against Rice on Sunday after a rain delay forced Thomson out of the game after one inning. Valenzuela said Griffin has lost 15 pounds over the last few months, and his velocity is higher than ever, peaking at 94 two weeks ago against San Diego State and then sitting at 89-92 and reaching 93 against Rice. Valenzuela said the Toreros might use Griffin as a one-inning closer on Fridays and start him on Sunday. If USD needs him to go longer than an inning Friday, he’ll stay in the bullpen for the rest of the weekend.
As good as Solis is, Muno could be harder to replace. The diminutive leadoff man led USD with 21 stolen bases while hitting .326/.414.450 last season, and he has nine steals in 10 attempts this year. Zach Walters replaced Muno in center field Sunday.
"With Muno going down, he’s obviously our go-getter, our leadoff guy–he runs, steals bases and is good in the outfield," Valenzuela said. "He’s kind of our lightning, but he’s down and that hurts. But we’re going to figure this thing out. We really believe this team can do some things."
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