By Lilly Trunnell
At this time last year, we would be looking at a starting rotation of Jeff Thompson, Chad Green, and probably Dace Kime for the first weekend of Louisville Baseball. But this is no longer 2013, and the faces to be seen on the field prove it. All three of those pitchers were drafted in the 2013 MLB Draft, giving opportunity for new starters to make an impression on baseball fans and, potentially, major league scouts.
Fridays will be given over to junior left-handed pitcher Joe Filomeno. Though he didn’t start a game last season Filomeno appeared in 14 games for the Cardinals, putting up a 5.30 earned run average and a 1-0 record. Coach McDonnell admits that the Friday night starter is a “sexy term in college baseball,” but also admits the best teams are the ones that have several guys that can pitch Friday night. The other two weekend starters could also pitch Friday night, but the fact that Filomeno will be took the mound on the Cardinals’ opening day means the coaching staff must see something special in him.
“He’s fought through some tough times, some adversity, dealing with some injuries and a few setbacks in his career here, he’s come out of the bullpen and he’s tried to just throw by guys, and he’s had success,” McDonnell said. Filomeno fought back from an injury last year after the regional.
On Saturday the ball goes to right-handed pitcher Kyle Funkhouser. In 22 appearances in 2013, six of those were starts. He boasts a small 2.14 ERA with a 5-1 record in just over 54 innings. A sophomore, Funkhouser will be one of the youngest players to see playing time this season. It’s these young guys that the Cardinals will rely on for support this season, and then to take on a leadership role next season. Funkhouser will not be eligible for the MLB draft until summer 2015, meaning this is a pitcher we will see not only this year, but likely taking over the roles of the to-be-drafted juniors and graduating seniors after 2014.
Finally, on Sunday, right-handed pitcher Jared Ruxer will take the mound. Though appearing in 19 games and starting seven, Ruxer has only 38 innings under his belt from last season, with a 5.63 ERA. Ruxer, a junior, has postseason experience having pitched a scoreless inning of relief against Oklahoma State in last year’s NCAA regional championship game. Ruxer seemed to be a magnet for bad luck having six unearned runs in his relatively small number of innings. This former Big East Freshman of the Year will enter 2014 with a chance to prove himself as the starter he has the potential to be.
“These three guys that are very hungry… They’re hungry to make their mark,” McDonnell said.
With the loss of four junior pitchers to last season’s draft they will have that opportunity with this season. Returning from last year is right handed pitcher closer, junior Nick Burdi. The 100 mph pitcher has been named First Team Preseason, named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list, and has been known to hit triple digits with his fastball.
“He wants to be great,” says Coach McDonnell.
While these three guys will likely not be the exclusive three to start this season, they give a perfect example to the new faces we are likely to see this season in Cardinal baseball.