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Tiger baseball has to replace talent on the mound

Clemson baseball is facing uncharted territory under Head Coach Monte Lee, who is in his third year with the Tigers. 

In the past two years, the Tigers have had a good idea of who their starting pitcher was going to be opening day. Charlie Barnes, who signed with the Minnesota Twins, was a consistent presence on the mound for Lee and his team these past two seasons. Pat Krall, Tyler Jackson and Alex Eubanks joined Barnes as arms Clemson could rely on last season and combined to pitch more than 380 innings. 

All four of those pitchers have since moved on from Clemson, either signing professional contracts or exhausting their eligibility, leaving Lee and his coaching staff to create a new rotation. 

In 2016, Clemson led the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio. The pitching staff struck out 562 batters while only walking 143. 

“We put a huge emphasis on the value of eliminating the free 90,” Lee said. “We’re gonna run guys out there who can fill up the strike zone. We err more on the side of guys who can fill up the strike zone

than velocity.” 

The Tigers still have experience on their roster, and some of those players are prime examples of pitchers who throw strikes. Brooks Crawford and Ryley Gilliam are two pitchers who have starting experience, though both appeared primarily as relief last season. 

Crawford ended the year with a 4-0 record in 17 relief appearances and had a 1.23 ERA with 22 strikeouts and only seven walks. 

Gilliam, who functioned primarily as Clemson’s closer, had a 3-1 record in 27 appearances. In 35 innings pitched, he struck out 50 and walked 14. However, Lee would prefer to keep Gilliam in the bullpen rather than have him start. 

“One of the beauties of Ryley Gilliam is that he has the experience as a starter as well. We could stretch him out in a starting role … but if we can, we’d like to keep him at the back end of the game because that’s where games are won and lost, the last nine out of the game. If we can pitch him in the ninth inning, we have a guy with electric stuff going out there for the last three, four, five, maybe six outs,” Lee said. 

Along with returning players in the mix for starting roles, freshman Spencer Strider is looking to make an impact. Strider, who had ten strikeouts in a team scrimmage, seems to fit well within Lee’s program. He fills up the strike zone and has three pitches, including a fastball in the mid-90s. 

Some other players on the roster in the mix for starting roles are Owen Griffith, Ryan Miller and Travis Marr. Griffith and Miller have some relief experience, but Marr took a medical redshirt last season due to a back injury. 

“I think our pitching staff is going to get better as the season goes,” Lee said. “We feel good about the pool of candidates we have in the mix to start. It’s just a matter of whose gonna earn the right to toe the rubber on game one, game two and game three.” 

Lee and the Tigers will have to find some answers quickly as the ACC features several hitters who will take advantage of any pitching mistakes. Don’t be surprised to see Lee moving players around in the rotation until he finds one

that works. 

Tiger fans will find out who the opening day starter will be when Clemson takes on William and Mary at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16. 

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