Mathew Troupe has been in the biggest innings, throwing the final pitch to clinch the College World Series.
Now, the Arizona Wildcats junior would look to throw a bunch of first pitches.
Troupe has been UA’s closer for much of the past two seasons, but the plan after last season was to move him into the starting rotation, a plan that remains unchanged despite his all-star summer finishing games in the Cape Cod League.
“Mentally, I’ve been preparing myself to start,” he said as practice began Friday.
“It’s a whole different ballgame. It’s not just 12 pitches anymore. I kind of have to take my time and use all my pitches and take a little off the fastball here and there to be able to go six, seven, eight innings.”
His fast-twitch personality fit the closer’s role — “He’s just goofy enough that when he messes up it doesn’t bother him. I like that. You need that in a closer,” head coach Andy Lopez said a year ago — so Troupe looks to senior James Farris for how to take a little off.
“We would always joke around about it,” Troupe said.
“He would always tell me to calm down while I’m pitching, because I’m walking around the mound, playing with my glasses, my hat. He’s like, ‘I don’t know how you do that, Troupe,’ because he’s on the mound all cool.
“He’s all slow, and I’m the exact opposite.”
Troupe saved nine games last season, striking out 49 in 38 1/3 innings. He finished with a 3.29 ERA after a bout of wildness in Pac-12 play. He had six saves with a 3.47 ERA as a freshman, when he won twice at the College World Series.
He got the final four outs, allowing no runs, as Arizona won the title with a 4-1 victory over South Carolina.
Last summer, he was the finest closer in the Cape Cod wood-bat league, striking out 32 in 20 innings and putting together a 1.35 ERA with 11 saves.
“He’s been a guy who gets psyched up really big,” Farris said.
“He just goes out there and pumps, just throws as hard as he can and pounds the zone. I really just told him he needs to be calm and collected. You gotta save your gas until the middle innings, the later innings.
“Mental preparation is one of the biggest things. The things you do the night before the day of the game are probably one of the biggest things.”
If all goes as planned, Lopez will roll into this season with Farris on Friday and Troupe on Saturday.
“They have national championship experience and background. They both throw strikes. They both throw breaking balls,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of resume in those two games.”
Junior left-hander Tyler Crawford figures to resume his duties as the team’s Sunday starter.
“These guys are long-toothed,” Lopez said. “I kind of like that in terms of being able to go in the Pac-12.”
Lopez has depth to configure a bullpen. Sophomores Tyger Talley and Cody Moffett, a lefty, did good work as freshmen. Newcomers will get their chance, including junior college transfer Cody Hamlin. Freshmen include Austin Schnabel and Morgan Earman, who throw in the low 90s, Lopez said.
That’s not all.
“The dark horse is Tyler Parmenter,” Lopez said.
Parmenter, a junior, hit .222 in 27 at-bats last season, mostly as a designated hitter early in the year, before the coaches convinced him to concentrate on pitching.
“He throws 90 to 94, throws a good change-up,” Lopez said. “Boy, he passes the eye test. I tell you what, you look at him and go, ‘Holy smokes.’”
Troupe calls it the best pitching staff he’s been on at Arizona, including the title-winning 2012 staff that was fronted by Kurt Heyer. We’ll see.
The first step for Troupe is proving he belongs in the rotation, and then letting Lopez figure out the rest of the pieces. The team opens the season Feb. 14 against Kent State at Hi Corbett Field.
“The way we look at it is, if I’m able to start, that would be great,” Troupe said.
“But, if not, then we go right back to relieving and possibly closing again. No matter what happens, we have a really good staff. We’re really excited on the pitching front.”