On Thursday afternoon, the Longhorns held a press conference at Disch-Falk field before departing for their opening series against the Rice Owls. David Pierce, Zach Zubia and Bryce Elder shared their thoughts on the upcoming series in Houston.
While Elder, Ty Madden and Coy Cobb are slotted in as the starters for this weekend, Pierce was optimistic about the guys behind them, and the way that they will push each other. “I expect [Cole] Quintanilla and [Kolby] Kubichek to push them and really strive to be in those roles,” Pierce said. One of the bullpen guys that was discussed was Kameron Fields, who is coming into his third season wearing burnt orange. When asked about his growth, Pierce shared “Fields has gotten into a more natural slot…. He is also another kid who has been there, which is the first time we can say that,” indicating improvement on the mound and his leadership prowess.
Speaking on the Friday night starter’s readiness, Pierce is happy with Elder’s preparation. “His last outing (scrimmage) he threw 6 innings with a 75-pitch cap. His mindset was as if he was starting a game. He is doing everything as prep towards tomorrow night,” said Pierce.
His starting catcher situation is a little more ambiguous headed into the weekend, but coach Pierce has trust in his guys. When asked about how frequently DJ Petrinsky will catch, Pierce said “I will not catch DJ every game. He will catch Friday, and Silas [Ardoin] will catch Ty [Madden].” DJ could also be a candidate for the open DH role when he is not catching. Sunday’s starter will depend on how the team is playing through the weekend. With five catcher designations on the roster, the team has solid depth in that department, which was full of injuries during the 2019 season.
Pierce also discussed the DH position, which looks like it will be a major advantage following Zubia’stransition to first base in the offseason. “Whoever is doing well in that position will maintain it… [Douglas] Hodo is going to start there, Cam Williams is a switch hitter who has a great swing especially from the right side, Lance Ford could be in there, Silas [Ardoin] can swing the bat there.” This list of possible DHs throughout the season is a showcase of the Longhorns’ youth depth, which includes Peyton Powell. “One of the biggest surprises swinging the bat this spring has been Powell… He has a good swing and a good eye, but now he is getting some confidence in there. A key of Zubia playing at first is that it opens up a spot for hot hitters,” said Pierce.
Leadership was another frequented topic in this presser. According to Pierce, the multiple leaders lead differently. Pierce said the leaders were “Bryce Elder, Ty Madden, DJ in a calm way, Zach [Zubia] does it by example… We have younger guys who lead like upperclassmen. … Austin Todd now expands his role to help others.” This diversified leadership should be great for the young guys to see how the experienced guys encourage each other and themselves in different ways, but ultimately working towards a common goal. When Zubia was asked about his leadership, he stated “I am not one of the vocal leaders. I have to keep my mouth shut and play, and let people follow that,” which is good for the younger guys to see. Zubia had a great offseason transformation to help him get the first base job, which is great for his teammates to watch. “I went to the weight room, cleaned up my diet… you can get lost in everything you are given. But you have to come every day ready to work,” said Zubia.
Something unique about the squad is the leadership that the younger guys have already started to have. Coach Pierce said “I don’t put a limit to leadership on age because our guys are with us, if they are really good, for three years. So we have this window to expedite their leadership, their skill, and help them grow up,” showcasing that this confidence and leadership from the new guys is something that will be embraced.
For the Friday night starter, the discussion was all about the game and how he feels about his pitches. When asked about his biggest improvements, Elder said “I think my fastball command is better, I have been working with Huston [street] on it and working on the change up now, giving me four pitches. … The sinker and slider have been good so far, but I will use the change-up and curveball a lot more.” When asked about the other pitchers, Elder was confident in their growth over the past year. “Ty [Madden] has grown up in the past year and has really bought into us being good. Coy [Cobb] has grown up in the sense that he knows that good pitches get outs,” said Elder about the weekend starters. Overall, Bryce Elder is ready to channel his golf-focused mindset on the mound and do what he prepared all offseason to do. “I have been excited for two weeks. Overall the side looks good, and we are ready to get after it,” Elder shared.
The Longhorns will kick off their season tonight at 7 PM CST in Houston. Tune into CUSA TV to watch.