The bullpen never quite came together for Rice baseball in the 2021 season. Strong, lengthy outings were the exception rather than the rule.
The Rice baseball pitching staff was a work in progress from the start of the 2021 season until its conclusion. There were days when the bullpen and starting rotation were in sync, but most weekends featured an assortment of good and bad from both units. This roundup will focus on the relievers.
2-2 Record | 5.28 ERA | 12 Appearances (1 Start) | 29 Innings | 16 K | 5 BB | .302 Batting Avg Against
Garibay was one of the most anticipated signees in the most recent recruiting class. A talented hitter and pitcher, the initial plans were to have him focus on his craft at the plate and use his arm on the mound sparingly, if at all. That changed quickly when he became one of the most dependable options. He finished on a high note, throwing a career long 7.2 innings allowing just three runs against Charlotte.
1-2 Record | 4.13 ERA | 14 Appearances | 24 Innings | 25 K | 15 BB | .239 Batting Avg Against
Wood had the lowest ERA of any of the Owls’ relief corps. His start, including a streak of 11.1 innings of scoreless baseball, was better than his finish. He allowed one or more runs in five of his final seven appearances, only one of which lasted more than one inning. Overall, there was a lot to like from his season.
0-1 Record | 6.75 ERA | 10 Appearances (2 Starts) | 10.2 Innings | 13 K | 13 BB | .200 Batting Avg Against
Davis had a rather curious season, moonlighting briefly as an opener, throwing an inning to start games before being lifted. Abnormal usage or not, he did well on the mound. His command was steady, piling up more than a strikeout per inning. The ERA ticked up higher because of a rough outing against Southern Miss, but Davis had a strong freshman campaign that should inspire confidence going forward.
0-2 Record | 7.15 ERA | 10 Appearances (2 Starts) | 11.1 Innings | 12 K | 14 BB | .135 Batting Avg Against
Like Davis, one bad outing obscures what was an encouraging beginning for this young hurler. Linskey’s .135 batting average against was the best on the staff by a wide margin. Walks were his undoing, a self-inflicted consequence that should be able to be corrected as he progresses in his career. The stuff is there and when he found the zone, it was tremendously effective.
0-1 Record | 8.82 ERA | 13 Appearances | 16.1 Innings | 22 K | 16 BB | .259 Batting Avg Against
Greenwood saw his role diminish as the season progressed, losing work to other relievers as he struggled with walked multiple batters and allowed multiple runs in each of his final five outings that lasted longer than one out. His best outing came earlier in the season, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings against Texas A&M with a season-best five strikeouts.
2-1 Record | 6.49 ERA | 11 Appearances (1 Start) | 26.1 Innings | 17 K | 16 BB | .277 Batting Avg Against
Gallant began the season in a long-relief role and faired reasonably well, earning a rare Monday win with five scoreless innings against Houston Baptist. Like others, he struggled to keep command and gave up big innings too often. Only a freshman, Gallant has room and time to build up consistency and become more dependable on the bump.
2-0 Record | 5.96 ERA | 11 Appearances (2 Starts) | 22.2 Innings | 20 K | 10 BB | .310 Batting Avg Against
DeLeon fell out of favor following last year’s brief stint as a starter. He worked primarily in long relief this year, appearing in six conference games. He could typically be relied upon to get a few strikeouts, give up a few hits and battle as best he could through jams. Some of those firefights turned out better than others.
2-1 Record | 7.65 ERA | 10 Appearances (3 Starts) | 20 Innings | 18 K | 13 BB | .320 Batting Avg Against
Like Greenwood, Zaskoda saw his high point in the midweek game against Texas A&M. He threw 5.1 innings, allowing one his while walking four and striking out four. He kept the Aggies at bay but wasn’t able to replicate a performance of that caliber for the remainder of the season. When facing the better offenses in Conference USA, Zaskoda struggled, but so did much of the rest of the Rice bullpen.
Christian Cienfuegos | 0-0 Record | 23.88 ERA | 8 Appearances | 8.2 Innings | 6 K | 12 BB | .390 Batting Avg Against
Dillon Janac | 0-0 Record | 12.27 ERA | 7 Appearances | 7.1 Innings | 5 K | 10 BB | .269 Batting Avg Against
Joshua Larzabal | 1-0 Record | 10.80 ERA | 6 Appearances | 8.1 Innings | 9 K | 5 BB | .436 Batting Avg Against
Johny Hoyle | 0-0 Record | 3.37 ERA | 3 Appearances | 2.2 Innings | 2 K | 6 BB | .200 Batting Avg Against
Jared Plank | 0-0 Record | 5.40 ERA | 3 Appearances | 3.1 Innings | 5 K | 1 BB | .308 Batting Avg Against
Will West | 0-0 Record | 9.00 ERA | 1 Appearance | 1.0 Innings | 2 K | 1 BB | .000 Batting Avg Against
The remainder of the bullpen was used sparingly, and proved to be more erratic than the first handful of relievers mentioned above. ERA isn’t a tell-all stat for players that primarily work an inning or two at a time, but the inflated marks tell the story fairly well here. The list of dependable options was short, and even those few didn’t deliver as often as Rice needed them to.
There is talent on this staff and it did flash at times. But there’s also a lof of work to do before the Rice baseball pitching staff is on par with what those around South Main have become accustomed to in past seasons.