Daily Egyptian

Rotation change paying dividends

By Thomas Donley, @TDonleyDE

Saluki baseball coach Ken Henderson has been hesitant to switch up his starting rotation in the past, but a recent change has paid off.

The Dawgs have not lost a series since swapping junior left-hander Joey Marciano and junior right-hander Chad Whitmer on Fridays and Saturdays three weeks ago.

“We just wanted to take a little pressure off of Joey,” said pitching coach P.J. Finigan. “So that maybe he could see the other team and relax a little bit. Friday nights, there’s less room for error, and Chad has [pitched on Fridays] before, so that was a factor.”

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Marciano started the season as SIU’s Friday starter, and posted a 2-1 record and a 1.76 ERA in his first five starts. However, in his next four starts the transfer from John A. Logan College went 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. 

Those struggles prompted a switch with Whitmer, who started the year pitching on Saturdays. Whitmer was 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA in nine Saturday starts.

His stats have dropped off slightly in a small sample size since his return to the Friday role, but he has posted a still-solid 3.00 ERA and a 2-1 record in three starts.

“There’s not really a huge difference between the days,” said the 6-foot-3 hurler from South Bend, Ind. “We decided to switch it up a bit, try something new, and so far it’s worked.”

Marciano has benefitted from having a chance to watch opposing hitters before facing them, going 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three Saturday starts.

“I get to see what the other teams got, and I get to adapt to how they hit,” said the 6-foot-5 Chicago native. “At first, when I was starting on Fridays, you would just go in there, pitch the best you could pitch and just see what they’ve got. Pitching on Saturday, you get to see how they hit and make better changes.”

Finigan said he did not make any adjustments to Marciano’s mechanics at the time of the switch and that allowed him to stay relaxed, which has been the key.

Whitmer was 0-3 with a 4.67 ERA in three Friday starts in 2015. He took the place of injured ace Aaron Hauge as Henderson did not want to interrupt the routines of his other weekend starters.

“Being the Saturday starter most of the year was nice, because I would get sort of an informal scouting report when [Marciano] was pitching on Fridays,” Whitmer said. “I’d say that [experience last year] helped me, because you go into the weekend not knowing what the other team looks like that year.”

Whitmer, Marciano and sophomore righty Michael Baird combined to go 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA in the Salukis’ three-game sweep at Missouri State last weekend, the team’s first since 1990.

“I think the way our rotation stands now, it gives us the best chance to win all three games [of a series],” Finigan said. “The biggest thing you can have is someone that’s very consistent on Fridays.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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