2013 Season Outlook: Relief Pitchers

Feb. 8, 2013

Watch on YouTube

Relief Pitchers
Signing Day Graphic
Returning Letterwinners
Name 2012 Stats
Robert Kahana (So./RHP) 3-1, 2 SV, 3.76 ERA, 69.1 IP
Jordan Luvisi (Sr./LHP) 1-2, 14.14 ERA, 7.0 IP
Dakota Smith (So./RHP) Did not pitch in 2012
Colin Toalson (So./RHP) 0-1, 3.71 ERA, 17.0 IP
Name Notes
Dylan Brett (Fr./RHP) 5-2, 2.55 ERA in 2012 (HS)
Conner Murray (So./RHP) Returning from Tommy John surgery
Junior Mustain (Jr./RHP) 4-3, 2.43 ERA at Pratt CC
Jordan Piché (Jr./RHP) 7-2, 2.21 ERA at Indian Hills CC
Tyler Watson (Fr./LHP) Three-time all-district in HS
Injured Players
Name Notes
Alex Cox (Jr./RHP) Transfer from Palomar CC
Taylor Rappaport (So./RHP) Pitched in two games in 2012
Departed Letterwinners
Name 2012 Stats
Jordan Jakubov (RHP) 1-2, 4.75 ERA, 41.2 IP
Jaydee Jurgensen (LHP) 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP
Matt Kohorst (RHP) 0-0, 5.00 ERA, 9.0 IP

LAWRENCE, Kan. – With the start of the 2013 baseball season one week away, KUAthletics.com is previewing the Jayhawks position-by-position. The final edition examines the Kansas bullpen, which has undergone a makeover this offseason.

With the additions of junior college transfers Junior Mustain and Jordan Piché, along with moving talented sophomore Robert Kahana into the closer’s role, head coach Ritch Price is hoping to change the fortunes of a bullpen that struggled last season. As a unit, the Jayhawk bullpen had an ERA almost one run higher than KU’s starting pitchers.

Kahana will serve as the team’s closer to open the season. As a freshman, he enjoyed a standout season, going 3-1 with a 3.76 ERA in a team-high 29 appearances. He picked up two saves late in the year, including one against Texas at the Big 12 Championship.

Price is also excited about the quality arms that will set up Kahana in the bullpen. It starts with transfers Mustain and Piché, who both pitched well in the fall and on the team’s trip to the Dominican Republic. Piché posted unbelievable numbers at Indian Hills Community College [Iowa] last season, recording 85 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 88 innings.

Mustain brings an outstanding curveball with him from Pratt Community College [Kan.], where he went 4-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 63 innings. Sophomore Colin Toalson will also be a right-handed option out of the bullpen. Toalson pitched in 15 games last season for KU and recorded a 3.71 ERA.

The Jayhawks will also use sophomore Dakota Smith on the mound in late-game situations in 2013. Smith pitched in the Northwoods League last summer and hit 92 mph on the gun. He will also start in the outfield.

KU has a pair of left-handed options, a valuable luxury when facing left-handed hitters late in games. Senior Jordan Luvisi will be looking to bounce back from an inconsistent year in 2012. Prior to his first year at KU, the left-handed pitcher had two productive years at Pepperdine University. Freshman Tyler Watson will also be counted on to combat lefties late in games. A Washington Nationals draft pick last year, Watson was a three-time all-district selection at Georgetown High School in Georgetown, Texas.

Sophomore Conner Murray and freshman Dylan Brett will also look for innings out of the bullpen after both missed the fall recovering from injuries. Murray missed all of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011.

Junior Alex Cox and sophomore Taylor Rappaport will both sit out 2013 after suffering injuries in the offseason.

Head Coach Ritch Price

On the new-look bullpen:
“We’ve moved Robert Kahana into the closer’s role. He was fabulous out of the bullpen a year ago and we’ve added depth to go with him. Jordan Piché may have been the best pitcher on our staff in the fall. Junior Mustain has been a really good addition to our club; he had a good fall as well.”

On how important it is to have multiple options out of the bullpen:
“It’s a key. You can’t play in a quality conference like the Big 12 without three quality starters and then on top of that, your bullpen needs to be as good as your starting pitching. We’re really excited about what we can put out there to finish games. When we’ve been good in the past, when we had (Paul) Smyth setting up for Don Czyz, or (Brett) Bochy setting up for Smyth. We have the opportunity to do that this year with the pitchers we have.”

On how the closer’s role will be filled:
“We plan to use Robert Kahana in most cases, but we may also use Jordan Piché to close games as well. We think they have the chance to be a dominant. Then we’ll use Justin Mustain, who has a really good breaking ball, in the setup role as well.”

On the makeup of sophomore Robert Kahana:
“He’s a very mature young man; he controls his emotions really well. He’s extremely competitive on the mound. We always preach `next pitch’, but only a few guys have that ability to execute that. For him to have that level of maturity as a freshman is really unusual. He had an outstanding freshman season and we expect bigger and better things out of him this year.”

On junior Jordan Piché:
“I can’t say enough about him. He’s a tremendous addition to our program; he sits 88-91 mph with his fastball and has a dominant cutter. He had a very good fall and then he saved both games he pitched in the Dominican Republic.”

On freshman Tyler Watson:
“We’re going to use Tyler Watson as our left-handed specialist. We’re hoping to use him like we used Travis Blankenship so effectively in 2009 and 2010, when he made over 30 appearances those two years. We’re going to use Tyler versus left-handed hitters out of the bullpen. We like the fact that he’s a strike-thrower and he can throw three pitches for a strike.”

On other bullpen options:
“We will use Jordan Luvisi in a similar role as Tyler, facing left-handed hitters late in games. We have the sophomore, Colin Toalson, who pitched last year, he’ll be the long reliever out of the bullpen. We also have a couple of guys coming off of injuries in the fall. Conner Murray didn’t pitch at all last year and is coming off elbow surgery; Dylan Brett was also out all fall after having surgery in the summer. They’re both making progress and we’ll be bringing them along slow this spring.”

Up Next:
Kansas will open the 2013 season in Mesa, Ariz., with four games against Nevada at Hohokam Park. The Jayhawks and Wolf Pack will open their four-game set on Friday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.

KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.