Arizona State’s starting pitchers are intimidating. Trevor Williams takes the mound on Friday nights and the right-hander is one of the best pitchers in the conference. Williams played for Team USA last summer and was mentioned as a preseason All-American. Saturdays see Ryan Kellogg and his conference-leading 0.71 ERA and Division I-leading 4.03 hits allowed per nine innings of work. On Sundays, all 6-foot-9 of Adam McCreery climbs on to the hill.
There’s no denying that Williams and Kellogg deserve their spots in the rotation. But McCreery’s 1-3 start has some fans wondering if he should be a starter at all. McCreery has a 7.04 ERA and has walked one more batter than he has struck out. Why should he get the start?
First, McCreery is an imposing figure. Many of his own teammates barely reach his shoulders and on top of that, the mound makes him about seven feet tall. It is harder for opposing batters to see the ball come out of his hand because it’s so high in the air. While being physically intimidating is a definite plus, it isn’t all McCreery has to offer.
Next, McCreery had a very promising freshman season despite being limited by injury. Last year, McCreery went 2-0 as a starter. In both games, one against Utah Valley and the other versus Western Michigan, he pitched four innings and recorded five strikeouts. Perhaps most importantly, he held Arizona scoreless in his three and two-thirds innings out of the bullpen in the last game of the regular season. That Arizona team went on to win the College World Series.
Finally, McCreery does not go deep into games. This may sound like a weakness, but it might be his greatest attribute. He has the ability to pitch into the later innings; his senior year of high school, he threw a complete game, one-hitter in the CIF championship. In his deepest start at ASU, he went five innings against Gonzaga. The fact that McCreery doesn’t always go deep is perfect for this Sun Devil pitching staff. Most of the guys are young, and they get much-needed experience in relief. Six different pitchers have appeared in games that he started.
Alex Blackford has thrown eight innings, Matt Dunbar six and two-thirds, Mark Lambson three and one-third, Ryan Burr two and two-thirds, Eric Melbostad one, and Brett Lilek one-third.
Head coach Tim Esmay wants to develop his young players. He’s played numerous freshmen in every part of the diamond, with the mound being no exception. It’s been harder for Esmay to give the younger guys a chance to pitch on Fridays and Saturdays. Williams has thrown two complete games already this season, along with a team-high 42 innings. Kellogg isn’t far behind after throwing his first complete game of the season in Corvallis.
McCreery has been out for 23 innings, allowing the bullpen to come in for 22 innings of relief. Having McCreery on the mound to start is the perfect way to give other pitchers a chance without overworking their arms.
With McCreery starting, the Sun Devils get a physically dominant pitcher to intimidate the weekend-weary opposition. He has a very promising future, and though this year he has faced stiffer competition, he has not regressed.
Because he doesn’t go deep into games, McCreery allows the rest of the staff to develop. McCreery has a lot of potential because of his size, and once he can control the ball more, no one will question his spot as the Sunday starter.