Clemson Pulls Trigger On Moskos Move

Entering the season, Clemson had the luxury of mound flexibility. The Tigers had one of the best closers in the country in junior lefthander Daniel Moskos, but they knew they could shift Moskos to the weekend rotation if they got in a pinch. With a durable 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame and a polished three-pitch repertoire that includes a heavy, boring fastball in the low to mid-90s, a hard slider and a promising changeup, Moskos has all the ingredients to be a dominant Friday starter.

Well, Clemson hasn’t exactly gotten in a pinch, as weekend starters P.J. Zocchi, Ryan Hinson and David Kopp have all thrown well for the most part. But the Tigers have decided to move Moskos to the rotation anyway. He’ll start Friday at Virginia Tech, bumping Zocchi to a long relief/midweek starter role.

This decision goes back to flexibility; the Tigers are making the switch because they can, not because they have to. Their rotation has been solid, but it has lacked a dominant ace, and Moskos has the potential to fill that need. And the emergence of fifth-year senior righthander Stephen Clyne in the bullpen makes the move possible.

Clyne, who missed all of 2003 and 2004 after having Tommy John surgery, has increased his fastball velocity from the high 80s to the 92-94 mph range to go along with a good hard slider, a curveball and a changeup, and he’s been nearly unhittable this year. He started to come on last year and ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 31 1/3 innings earlier this season. Overall, Clyne is 4-0, 0.39 with 19 strikeouts and five walks in 23 innings. He does a great job getting ahead of hitters with his fastball and commanding his secondary stuff. Junior righty Alan Farina, a transfer from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College, takes his power fastball-slider repertoire to the setup role vacated by Clyne.

Pitching depth figured to be Clemson’s strength entering the year, and that depth allows the Tigers to put Moskos in the rotation, where his varied arsenal can be more effective.

“Daniel really wasn’t quite as comfortable pitching with just two pitches,” Clemson assistant coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He had success closing last year with Team USA and in the fall and spring, but he’s more comfortable using more than two pitches. We’ve been struggling a little bit to find a Friday night guy, and he’s certainly got the stuff to do it.

“And the other thing is everybody that has seen Stephen Clyne and Alan Farina have raved about their arms. All the pieces fit together. We’ve got another guy to fill the closer spot. We’ve got Moskos, who has the potential to be a dominant Friday night guy and compete with anybody in the country.”

This is not a one- or two-week trial, O’Sullivan said. Clemson is committed to this change, and it makes a lot of sense. Now the Tigers just need their bats to come around.

Senior first baseman Andy D’Alessio hasn’t played this week with a groin injury, and he’s expected to miss this weekend’s series against Virginia Tech as well. But some of the younger Tigers are starting to hit–particularly freshman outfielder Addison Johnson, who doubled home the winning run against Georgia closer Joshua Fields in the ninth inning of Clemson’s 11-10 victory Wednesday. Redshirt freshman outfielder Wilson Boyd also had a couple of big hits against the Bulldogs, and there are signs his bat is emerging from its early-season slumber.

“It’s encouraging. I think these guys will come around,” O’Sullivan said. “And if our starting pitching is consistent, that will help our offense, too.”

Indeed, quality pitching allows hitters to relax, knowing they don’t have to score 11 runs to win all the time. That’s just one more reason why moving Moskos to the rotation is the right move.