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February 16, 2013
The 2013 season unveils a new look pitching staff for the Bulls. Gone are the marquis names like Derrick Stultz, Andrew Barbosa and Matt Reed and its been a while since we've seen Randy Fontanez and Kevin Quackenbush suit up.
Clearly this season is going to be about fresh faces, even for the coaching staff. Now that Chuck Hernandez has migrated south to Miami for the Marlins, former Bull and Tampa Bay Ray Lance Carter has come aboard to instruct the pitchers.
This year is going to be all about whether or not the Bulls can replace the solid product left by Barbosa and Stultz. The Bulls return just one starter from the weekend rotation in senior Joey Lovecchio. After Lovecchio, it seems that junior lefthander Nick Gonzalez will need to try to fill the void left by Barbosa.
After the two returners, the Bulls have a host of options to fill out the rotation and bullpen. Let's take a look at who will be toeing the rubber for the Bulls this year:
Joey Lovecchio- 6-foot-2 190lbs Senior Seabreeze High School (Daytona Beach, Fla.) (Transfer: Seminole State)
Lovecchio got off to a great start last season, but faded late in the year. The transfer from Seminole State posted an 8-4 record with a 4.78 ERA in 14 appearances and 12 starts. Lovecchio solidified himself as the Saturday starter for the Bulls, proving himself to be durable, pitching in 79 innings. This season, Lovecchio will be relied upon to be one of the big arms on the staff and will be one of the weekend starters. In 2013, Lovecchio needs to be better at missing bats, opponents batted .295 against the right-hander, blasting 26 extra-base hits. One thing that Lovecchio excelled in last year was his control, walking just 17 hitters in 79 innings, which masked the problems of being prone to hits.
Nick Gonzalez- 6-foot-4 220lbs Junior Leto High School (Tampa, Fla.)
A lot of the Bulls' hopes for success rest on the shoulders of Nick Gonzalez. The Leto High School product started his career with the Bulls as a starter in 2010, but saw himself cast a the lefty specialist last season. Gonzalez had a very good 2012, posting a 4-1 record and a 2.63 ERA in 22 appearances and two starts. The Tampa native seemed to excel under the watchful eye of Chuck Hernandez; Gonzalez cut his total of walked batters in half from 30 in 2011 to 16 in 2012 while striking out ten more batters last year. A tall lefthander with a fastball in the high 80's and a devastating breaking ball, Gonzalez has the ability to miss bats. Going into this season, Gonzalez will return to the starting rotation and needs to produce. If he picks up where he left off from last year, Gonzalez could be on his way to the best season in his career.
Nolan Thomas- 6-foot-0 180lbs Junior Key West High School (Big Pine Key, Fla.) Transfer: Tallahassee CC
A transfer from Tallahassee Community College, Thomas provides an experience addition to the Bulls' pithing staff this season. It is still unknown where he is going to end up in the mix, but Thomas does has the stuff to be the Sunday or mid-week starter for the Bulls. A fastball in the high 80's and an above average breaking ball, Thomas has shutdown stuff. The left from the Keys went 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA with Tallahassee Community College last year, while striking out 61 batters in 70 innings. This season, expect for Thomas to fill that Sunday starters spot for the Bulls.
Steven Leasure- 6-foot-1 205lbs Senior Manatee High School (Bradenton, Fla.)
Leasure made a solid impression on Bulls fans in his first season with USF. The transfer from Manatee Community College solidified himself in the backend of the bullpen, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.90 ERA, in 19 appearances, leading the team with six saves. Leasure proved to have the ability to miss bats, opponents hit just .235 against the right-hander, walking just six times while striking out 16 in 23.2 innings pitched. Going into this year, expect for Leasure to be the stopper coming out of Lance Carter's bullpen. The real question is whether or not the Bulls have enough arms to get to Leasure with a lead.
The Bulls will have many more contributors ready to go in the bullpen. Expect to see a lot of left-hander Janick Serrallonga (0-0, 6.00 ERA) and righty Andrian Puig (0-0, 5.54 ERA) this season. Sophomore Mike Clarkson is vying for a starting position, but if that does not work out, he could prove to be a very reliable bridge to Leasure late in games. Senior outfield Chad Taylor, who pitched two innings last season, will be used more on the mound this year. Expect for Taylor to be one of the first guys out of the pen. True freshmen Justin Patrick and Jimmy Herget should contribute quite a bit in their first seasons with the team.