After securing seven position players during the fall signing period, USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri knew he needed to address something no team can have too much of – pitching.
And with four of the five recruits who signed national letters-of-intent in the recently completed spring signing period being hurlers, Cardieri has done just that – and then some.
“We had to improve in the area of pitching and we feel like we’ve done so with players who can make an immediate impact,” Cardieri said. “These pitchers appear to have the ability to throw strikes and get guys out.”
Topping the list of incoming players will be Ryan Gloger, a junior transfer from national runner-up Stanford. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Gloger was one of the premier pitchers in the nation as a high school senior, earning All-American honors from Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball at Tampa’s Jesuit High School.
“Ryan is a big addition to our program provided he can throw like we’ve seen him throw,” Cardieri said. “(Gloger) is a big, strong kid who is a real competitor and he’s going to bring a lot to (USF).”
In addition to garnering national recognition as a prep star at Jesuit, Gloger was named first-team all-state in 1999 as a senior, when he compiled a 13-2 record to go along with a miniscule 0.80 ERA. Gloger was the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times Player of the Year and The Saladino Award recipient, given annually to the top prep player in Hillsborough County, as a senior.
As if the left-hander needed any more hardware to add to his trophy case, Gloger was also named to the Tampa Tribune’s All-Decade team.
“He can be a big-time left-handed pitcher with a 90-mph fastball, a great curveball and change-up,” Cardieri said.
Gloger was taken in the eighth round by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays out of high school, but elected to enroll at Stanford. Gloger saw limited action in his two seasons with the Cardinal, making four appearances as a freshman and one as a sophomore. But for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League last summer, Gloger excelled, going 4-2 with a 1.72 ERA in 52-1/3 innings of work. He is again playing for the Whitecaps this summer, where he is 1-0 and has thrown 17-2/3 scoreless innings.
“I have good location and I move the ball in and out,” Gloger said. “I think I have a lot of knowledge of how to pitch. I have a good fastball, curveball and change-up and I feel comfortable throwing any of those three pitches at any time in the count.”
Gloger, expected to fill the void in the weekend rotation left by the graduated John Vigue, will also give the Bulls something they sorely lacked last season against Conference USA teams – a left-handed starter. In addition to Gloger, Cardieri inked lefty Paul Griffin during the spring signing period as well.
“His fastball is in the mid-80s and he has a good curveball,” Cardieri said. “He really has a great feel for pitching. (Griffin) is just a winner.”
Griffin, from West Orange High School, was 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA as a senior. He struck out 61 batters and issued only 18 free passes in 52 innings of work. His high school coach, Teddy Craig, said Griffin’s makeup is as impressive as his repertoire.
“Paul’s work ethic is second to none,” Craig said. “He is a workaholic. In the past year the velocity has picked up which has enabled him to come inside on right-handers and left-handers.”
Besides lefties Gloger and Griffin, Cardieri secured a pair of right-handed junior college transfers in Mike Choquette and Mike Yeager. Choquette is from North Florida Community College, where he was a first-team All-Panhandle Conference infielder – not a pitcher – as a freshman and a sophomore. Cardieri said Choquette could see some time in the infield as well as on the mound.
“The movement on his ball, from his change-up to his curveball to his slider, is outstanding as he throws from different arm slots,” he said. “He may even play a little infield for us.”
Yeager was 6-2 with a 3.50 ERA as a sophomore at Tallahassee Community College. Cardieri said Yeager is a fierce competitor who rarely makes mistakes.
“Mike throws in the upper-80s and he has a good curveball,” he said. “He has good command and you’re going to have to beat him, he’s not going to beat himself.”
TCC coach Mike McLeod’s impressions of Yeager mirrored Cardieri’s comments.
“He’s aggressive and just a tremendously hard worker, probably one of the hardest workers we’ve had here,” he said. “He is strong mentally and is hard on himself. I like that in a player – he’s not looking for any pats on the back.”
The only nonpitcher Cardieri signed in the spring was Gaither outfielder Kris Howell. As a senior, the 6-foot, 170-pound Howell was a second-team Tampa Tribune All-Hillsborough County selection, hitting .419 with 2 HR and 26 RBI. Cardieri said with some defensive improvements, Howell could develop into a solid contributor for the Bulls.
“Kris is a good gap-type hitter with a good eye at the plate,” he said. “I believe with some work on his defense, he is going to be a pretty good college player.”
Despite losing nine players to graduation and the Major League draft, Cardieri said the combination of the fall and spring recruits (14 total) will present some stiff competition for playing time – as well as a makeover – for the Bulls.
“We had a solid recruiting year,” he said. “We signed nine players in the fall and then with these five, it gives us a new look that I like. I think every one of these players can step in right away and contribute.”