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From the Bird’s Nest: 2012 Cajuns Baseball: The Pitchers

courtesy ragincajuns.com

Eighteen wins.  Four saves.  288 2/3 innings.

That’s what Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns lose from their pitching staff as they prepare for the 2012 season.  Two weekend, starters, Taylor Hubbell and T. J. Geith, are gone.  Ditto bullpen stalwarts Joey Satriano and Randall Bulliard.  Ryland Parker and Michael Cook depart as well.

Yet, the cupboard is far from bare.  The Cajuns will pitch just fine next season, thank you very much.

The Cajuns have a bonafide weekend starter returning in Jordan Nicholson.  The Ruston right-hander was 5-2 last season with a team-leading 2.52 ERA.  He was a second team All-Louisiana pick.

The Cajuns will also return a part time weekend starter in Joe Zimmerman.  The UNO transfer was 1-3, 4.71 a year ago.  Consistency is the key for Zimmerman, who had a few very good starts last year.

Those are the only two pitchers who started a game for the Cajuns last year.  But Chase Traffica will get a long look in the fall.  Traffica (1-0, 3.38) had a few midweek starts as a freshman and could step into the starting rotation, either on the weekend or mid-week next season.

The bullpen returns setup man Blake Wascom (2-0, 4.91) and late inning specialists Matt Hicks (3-1, 3.80) and Caleb Kellogg (1-0, 5 saves, 3.86).

In addition, the Cajuns will return right-handers Manning Duhon and Jacques deGruy, both of whom pitched sparingly last season.

The Cajuns lost both of their left-handed pitchers, but Head Coach Tony Robichaux will have plenty of lefties to choose from next season.

Kyle Neely (Merryville, LA) and Ben Frith (transfer from Marshall) both red-shirted last year.  We’ll see how much they’ve developed in the fall.

In addition, the Cajuns have signed left-handers Chaz Hebert (Breaux Bridge), Henri Faucheux (LaPlace) out of high school and junor college lefties Jordan Harrison (North Central Texas College) and Chris Griffett (Bossier Parish CC).

Hebert was drafted by the New York Yankees.  The lefty has good size and velocity.  But his breaking ball and changeup are both below average.  He probably would be better off coming to school, but the Yankees have selected him as a “draft and follow.”  This means they’ll monitor Hebert over the summer and probably make him an offer in August.  Hebert put a pretty high price tag on his services, but we’ll see how the negotiations go.  If he comes to school, he’ll benefit from Robichaux’s ability to develop pitchers.

Watch Faucheux.  The Riverside Academy lefty is one that Robichaux likes a lot.  I’ll be surprised if he redshirts.

The Cajuns will also have five newcomers from the right side.  Three are junior college transfers.  Ben Carter (LSU-Eunice) was 4-0 for the Bengals last season in 49 innings of work.  And teammates Kendall Mayer and Derek Howell join the Cajuns from Seminole State (OK) junior college.  Meyer is pitching for the Acadiana Cane Cutters this summer.  He’s a two-pitch guy (fastball/slider) which probably means he’s slated for late inning bullpen work.

Two high school righthanders will help the Cajuns.  Austin Robichaux allowed only one earned run during the regular season at Notre Dame.  Robichaux, Tony’s son, needs to put on some weight, but he’s a three pitch guy with good velocity and a chance to be really good.  Right now he carries just 170 lbs on his 6-5 frame.  Robichaux can pitch and help the Cajuns now.  He’ll be a candidate to be in the rotation……if he comes to school.  Robichaux was a 50th round draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds and, like Hebert, his team will follow his summer progress and make him an offer in August.  Robichaux, however, has a hefty price tag and he’s unlikely to lower that number.

The other righthander didn’t get the publicity of Robichaux or Hebert, but Acadiana High product Cord Cockrell is going to be a good one.  He has command of three pitches and will definitely see some action as a freshman.

Overall, just like the position players, there’s going to be some youth here.  Kellogg and Hicks will just be sophomores and there are four freshman, if all of them come to campus, that will be in the mix.  But there’s quite a bit of talent here.  It will be Robichaux’s job in the fall to figure out where the pieces belong.

But, with Nicholson giving the Cajuns a chance every Friday night, this team should overall have a stronger pitching staff than they did in 2011.  With all the youth in the lineup, the pitchers will have to lead the way.

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