Pitching has always been the backbone of Rice baseball. Can the 2020 rotation and bullpen carry on that rich tradition of excellence?
It’s about time to get back to the ballpark for the beginning of the 2020 Rice baseball season. The Owls open up against long-time rival Texas on Valentine’s Day. Who will be on the mound for that Friday night tilt?
“Pitching is where the story is written most of the time,” head coach Matt Bragga said before diving into depth charts. With that as our frame of reference, here’s a breakdown of the potential starting pitching rotation and a look at the Owls’ bullpen.
Projected Starting Rotation
- Alex De Leon, RHP
- Roel Garcia, RHP
- Kel Bordwine, RHP
- Dalton Wood, RHP
- Drake Greenwood, RHP
I fully expect Alex De Leon to throw the first pitch of the 2020 Rice baseball season. Taking over for Matt Canterino is no small task, but De Leon has done nothing but impress in his short stint at Rice. Coach Matt Bragga said De Leon “has been our most consistent guy from the moment he got here as a junior college transfer until now.”
While De Leon will get the Opening Day nod, he could be supplanted down the line by Roel Garcia. After missing the entire 2019 season with injury, Garcia is getting close to being back to his usual self. He’s back on the mound and throwing bullpens, but isn’t likely to be extended more than a few innings until March.
That timeline would put him back in the starting rotation at the beginning of conference play. Bragga considers him “an absolute Friday night guy”, which could bode well for a rotation replacing two Top 5 round MLB draft picks, Canterino and Evan Kravetz.
The rest of the rotation is fluid. Kel Bordwine inserted himself into a weekend role late last season, but the staff has spoken highly of Dalton Wood, too. Wood came on strong at the end of the year, turning himself into a reliable piece out of the bullpen. Those two, along wide Drake Greenwood who was a midweek starter in 2019, will more than likely fill out the Sunday role and midweek jobs.
- Jack Conlon, RHP
- Caleb Burgess, RHP
- Matthew Santos, LHP
- Andrew Kane, RHP
- Blake Brogdon, RHP
- A.C. Plum. RHP
- Brandon Deskins, LHP
- Ryan Rickett, RHP
Rice will be retooling in the bullpen as well. Garrett Gayle and Kendal Jefferies, their first two arms out of the pen on most nights, are both gone. The most intriguing name to watch is junior righty Jack Conlon. The former fourth round draft pick has a huge arm and has dazzled during the offseason. Bragga was adamant he’d have an important spot out of the bullpen.
Caleb Burgess is another guy who could ascend into the forefront of the relief corps. Currently rehabbing from Tommy John, Burgess “has a chance to be special” according to Bragga. Like Garcia, Burgess is likely to be eased in slowly as he works back toward being 100 percent.
Freshman Matthew Santos alongside transfers Andrew Kane and Ryan Rickett are three names to watch. Each of those guys has the potential to work themselves into a staple in the bullpen. They’ve each been successful at previous stops. Now they have to show they can do it at Rice. Meanwhile Blake Brogdon, A.C. Plum and Brandon Deskins have continued to develop after seeing brief action in 2019.