Two-Headed Monster

In yesterday’s College Blog, we speculated that Arizona might move sophomore righthander Mike Colla into the weekend rotation and slide sophomore lefty Daniel Schlereth into the bullpen. Today Wildcats coach Andy Lopez confirmed that plan. Arizona’s rotation this weekend against New Mexico will feature sophomore righthander Preston Guilmet on Friday, senior lefty Brad Mills on Saturday and Colla on Sunday. That allows Lopez to utilize what he calls a “two-headed monster” at closer with Schlereth and freshman righty Jason Stoffel, an arrangement reminiscent of the dual closer system that worked very well for Lopez when he took Florida to the College World Series in 1996. That year, Paul Rigdon and Brad Wilkerson combined for 16 saves.

Schlereth, who did not make it out of the third inning in his start Saturday, sat down with Lopez on Sunday and said he’d feel more comfortable closing than starting. With a resilient arm strengthened by Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school, Schlereth is suited to a relief role physically as well as mentally. His fastball has touched 94 mph in the fall, though he worked in the 90-91 range Saturday. Lopez said Stoffel is someone who just wants the ball–he threw 38 pitches Saturday then came back and wanted to pitch Sunday, but Lopez told him no. He pitches at 90-91 and has an effective 12-to-6 curveball. Stoffel will close today against Utah Valley State, and Schlereth will assume the closing duties tomorrow.

There are a few other developments that give the Wildcats even more depth. Sophomore righty Cory Burns, who struggled mightily as a freshman and had a rough fall according to Lopez, dropped his arm slot from high three-quarters to sidearm about a week and a half ago, and Lopez said he’s taken to the change.

“He fell in love with it,” Lopez said. “He dropped down to a straight sidearm, throwing 87-89, with a slider and a changeup. He’s throwing a lot of strikes, balls sinking, lots of arm-side sink. His last three or four outings in the fall, he needed an L screen. I said, ‘Let’s drop you down,’ and a lot of guys don’t want to do that. He’ll be the first guy out of the pen today.”

Arizona’s weekend rotation could get shuffled when sophomore righty Ryan Perry returns from a broken arm suffered in a motorcycle accident. Perry was Arizona’s best arm in the fall, pitching in the 92-94 mph range, and he could push his way into the rotation. Lopez said Perry is jogging and throwing on flat ground, and the Wildcats hope to have him back in time for their series at Hawaii on March 9-11.