Texas' Connor Mayes(19) pitches against UT Pan American during a NCAA college baseball game at Disch-Falk Field Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Baseball

Notebook: Connor Mayes moved to closer for Big 12 opener

Posted March 23rd, 2016

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Eeny, meeny, miny — Mayes.

After vetting four starters to patch his team’s hole at closer, Texas coach Augie Garrido announced on Wednesday that Connor Mayes has pulled the ninth-inning straw.

Mayes, who has made four starts, will be coming out of the bullpen against fifth-ranked TCU this weekend and will remain there indefinitely.

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Mayes didn’t do anything wrong for this to happen, and, in fact, his 2.16 ERA is lowest among the team’s starters. Yet, it was inevitable that something had to be done to make room for Morgan Cooper’s promotion from midweek starter and to shore up a disastrous situation at closer.

Mayes (0-2) sounded anything but jaded and said he’s looking forward to pitching in relief, which he did 25 times as a freshman last year.

“I live for that moment, so I’m very excited to be out there in a close ball game getting to shut it out for the guys,” he said. “Our starters are going to do a great job, so hopefully they can use me a lot this weekend.”

Cooper, who appears to be all of the way back from Tommy John surgery, will start Thursday. Ty Culbreth will start Friday’s game, and Kyle Johnston will start game three on Saturday.

Garrido said he would’ve been fine with “any of the four” closing, but that he picked Mayes in part because Mayes bounces back physically better than the others and can be available for multiple games in a weekend.

“Mayes is highly competitive and we feel like he’ll go out there and compete,” Garrido said.

Baker out, defense re-tooled: Joe Baker’s leg injury is more serious than originally thought, as Garrido is now saying he’ll be without his second baseman for 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his lower leg.

Baker, whose .314 batting average is third on the team, first suffered the injury in practice prior to the UCLA series and then may have re-aggravated it on Saturday when he tripped over the first base umpire against Tulane.

In Baker’s stead, normal center fielder Zane Gurwitz moved to second base in Tuesday’s win over UTSA. That arrangement is part of a grander reconfiguration in which catcher Tres Barrera will play some at third and Kody Clemens moves to short. Tyler Rand, who has been out for a month with a wrist injury, could return this weekend and would take over for Gurwitz in center. If Rand’s not back, Patrick Mathis will play in center.

The odd man out is Bret Boswell, who started the team’s first 20 games at shortstop before getting benched against UTSA. Boswell has now been relegated to designated hitter against right-handed pitchers.

“It’s isn’t that he’s done a bad job defensively, it’s more about the communication,” Garrido said. “With Baker out — who was the communicator in the infield — it makes it more challenging for us to find leadership out there. We’re not counting (Boswell) out at all.”

Normal rotation for TCU: The Horned Frogs will stick with their normal weekend rotation. Freshman Luken Baker (2-0, 1.03 ERA) will throw Thursday followed by Brian Howard (4-0, 2.37) and left-hander Rex Hill (2-1, 4.63).

Mitchell Traver, a weekend starter for TCU last year, has been out all season with a back injury.

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