South Carolina Baseball: No worries about pitching rotation
COLUMBIA -- Last March, the South Carolina baseball team had not quite figured out the roles in its pitching staff. This March, it again is not set.
It worked out OK for the Gamecocks in 2010. Because of that, they're not too worried in 2011 entering the SEC schedule.
Georgia (8-9) comes to Columbia this weekend for a three-game series against South Carolina (12-3), beginning at 7 tonight at Carolina Stadium.
"I don't feel any anxiety. We're not worried, saying, 'Oh my gosh, we're going to start giving up runs all the time,' " said junior left-hander Michael Roth. "There's no sense or feeling of that. I think it's something we need to figure out together. We'll do that as time progresses."
The fourth-ranked Gamecocks have had a reality check in the past week, dropping a Sunday game to Cal State Bakersfield and a Tuesday night game in Greenville to Furman. They rebounded Wednesday against Wofford, and they're looking for a similar start to last season in SEC play.
South Carolina began last year's conference schedule by winning the first five SEC games -- and, more, the first seven league series.
That's a much bigger challenge in 2011 considering a trip to No. 1 Florida is on deck next weekend. A mid-April series against No. 2 Vanderbilt is on the schedule, as well.
"Now we put the gloves on and punch each other for a while," USC coach Ray Tanner said.
The Gamecocks will do so, at least for now, trying to establish the pieces of their pitching staff.
Roth was a wild card coming into the season, moving from a setup role to the Friday night starting spot. But he's been the staff's constant thus far.
He's currently 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA, 30 strikeouts and seven walks in 27 1/3 innings.
"Michael Roth has been very special in his new assignment," Tanner said. "I think he'll thrive for us and give us a chance to win."
There are a lot of questions beyond Roth -- something Tanner has called "concerning, but not disappointing."
Junior left-hander Steven Neff struggled in the bullpen early on, but he's beginning to click as a starter. He'll go Saturday for USC. Sunday's starter is still listed as to be announced, because of the struggles of both Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland.
"We have a lot of guys that can start right now," Roth said. "We've just got to have some guys that will distinguish themselves. I believe that'll happen in the next couple of weeks."
Tanner said sophomore Colby Holmes, after allowing two runs on a hit in 5 1/3 innings against Wofford, is another pitcher to keep an eye on.
And on Thursday, Tanner opened a bit wider the door of moving All-America closer Matt Price to the rotation. It had always been a possibility, but Tanner sounded more intent this week about it than in the past.
Price currently has a 6.75 ERA, with all of his six earned runs allowed in eight innings coming in a rough outing at Clemson two weeks ago. He has four saves in five tries.
"I've said this before, and I'll say it again," Tanner said, "if our starting pitching is not as good as we want it to be, then Matt Price will be out there. He's one of our best guys. It's nice to have him in the bullpen, but if he's not pitching crucial innings, he needs to be pitching in a different role. That'll be evaluated as we go."