Stafford injury hurts Texas pitching staff

AUSTIN, Texas -- Augie Garrido, whether being coy or just earnest, hasn't quite figured out what type of baseball team he will put on the field as Texas starts its season against Duke at Disch-Falk Field on Friday.

"The unexpected plays a major role in the outcome," the Texas coach said. "And the unexpected is what makes it fun for all of us."

For Texas, the expectations are the issue. Thirty-four trips to the College World Series created those expectations. Last year's trip and subsequent quick exit might have just heightened them.

But Texas first must deal with a few other exits, namely that of staff ace Taylor Jungmann. The pitcher is now a part of the Milwaukee Brewers organization. On top of that, his projected replacement at the top of the rotation, Sam Stafford, underwent shoulder surgery and likely will miss the entire season. Also gone is Cole Green, who carried a 3.14 era in 2011.

Those three were major components of a staff that compiled a staggeringly low 2.35 era in 2011. That is not a number Garrido is hanging over the heads of his new staff or even talking about this year.

"The only way you have a chance to end up with numbers like that is not to try," he said.

In other words, he doesn't want his younger arms -- John Curtiss, Parker French, Nathan Thornhill and others -- to place unreal expectations on themselves and press to reach those expectations.

"We have quality pitchers in my opinion," Garrido said. "Do we have Taylor Jungmann? No. Do we have somebody like him? Not that we know of. But we didn't know at this point last year that Corey Knebel was going to be the closer that he is."

Knebel is considered one of, if not the, best closers in the college baseball. So if Texas can get the ball to him with a lead, it has a good chance of getting the win.

But getting the lead requires swinging the bat and possibly even swatting a few home runs. The latter is not exactly something Texas is known for. Texas had just 17 home runs in 2011. Not so stunningly, that qualified for last in the Big 12. The Longhorns were ninth in the conference in slugging percentage and eighth in batting average.

"Do we have more power? I haven't seen it," Garrido said.

If any power does show up, the most likely source will be third baseman Erich Weiss. The sophomore hit .348, drove in 45 and scored 46 runs in 2011. With Brandon Loy gone, Weiss will need another bat to step up in the lineup to help his production.

It was thought that bat possibly could be Cohl Walla. But a knee injury and subsequent surgery has sidelined him for the year.

So instead Texas will be looking for bounce-back years from Jonathan Walsh and others.

"Many times that they have had outstanding years, they have had a little bit of, they call it the sophomore jinx; it is really about developing expectations and trying to play to assumptions and other things, rather than keeping the game simple," Garrido said.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation

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