Column | Pitt baseball rotation and bullpen is key to season’s success


Colleen Nguyen, Staff Photographer

Junior Holden Phelps, throws a pitch on Tuesday, Feb. 28 against Bucknell at Charles L. Cost Field.

By Zack Gibney, Senior Staff Writer

After Pitt was sent packing in the semifinal round of the 2022 ACC Baseball Tournament, all members of the program were aware that change was coming. The team that took the field in Charlotte, North Carolina that afternoon would look much different for Opening Day in 2023.

On the offensive side of things, the transition has gone smoothly. Newcomers such as senior first baseman Noah Martinez — a transfer from Central Connecticut State — have already helped Pitt fill the holes left by the departure of Tatem Levins, Bryce Hulett and others.

From a pitching standpoint, the turnover has raised some concerns.

While still a small sample size, the Panthers staff ERA currently sits at 7.57 — a jump by almost a run and a half from 2022. This has resulted in some surprising out-of-conference defeats early in the season, including one to Harvard and two to Maine.

Pitching inconsistency torpedoed Pitt’s season last year, and it may do the same in 2023 if the staff can’t collectively turn things around. After all, the team’s ERA was over six in 2022 as well — which is significantly better than this season’s 7.57 ERA. 

On top of that, Pitt has lost two-thirds of its weekend rotation from last year in pitchers Matt Gilbertson and Billy Corcoran, with junior Logan Evans being the lone returner. Not to mention, Evans has yet to see action so far this season. 

So where does this leave Pitt? The bad news is they lost some of the limited consistency from last season. The good news is that there are still quite a few unknown variables that have shown some positive signs in limited action.

Sophomore pitcher Ethan Firoved comes to Pitt by way of Tallahassee Community College after a brief stop at Virginia Tech last season. Firoved looked impressive in limited action so far this season, having allowed just three earned runs in 8.1 innings pitched.

Firoved is one in a group of transfers and newcomers who are pivotal to the success of the group as a whole.

Senior Erubiel Candelario from Marist and junior Kyle Moseley from Hill College have shown some promise in the starting rotation, but both are still trying to get their footing in the young season. Still only two starts in, all three newcomers that have begun the season in the starting rotation are still getting used to their roles with their new team.

Another transfer — junior Holden Phelps — comes to Pittsburgh from Missouri, where he played sparingly in his two years. Phelps made his first start in blue and gold on Tuesday against Bucknell, where he hurled 4 strong innings, giving up just one run.

At the end of the day, that’s what a lot of this topic comes down to — making the adjustment to ACC baseball.

For graduate student and Pitt newcomer Nash Bryan, this transition is bigger than for most.

Bryan, who has primarily served as Pitt’s closer in the opening weeks of the season, transferred from Division II Seton Hill University prior to the 2023 season. Bryan played four years for the Griffins, racking up 96 strikeouts in 64.1 IP, while posting an extremely impressive 2.11 ERA.

While his numbers at Seton Hill jump off the page, the jump from Division II to power-conference Division I is a sizable one.

Bryan’s development as a consistent arm at the back of the bullpen is critical, and he is already showing signs of adjustment. After his first outing, where he allowed three earned runs in less than an inning, Bryan has allowed just one run over his last three appearances.

Bryan isn’t the only newcomer to the revamped bullpen. Florida State transfer Dylan Simmons was a major reason why Pitt beat Harvard in Florida and escaped their home opener against Bucknell with a win. Similarly to Bryan, Simmons’ season got off to a rough start, allowing four earned runs in just two thirds of an inning. But the Florida State transfer has improved recently, pitching 4.1 scoreless innings since his debut. 

So while the early-season losses are alarming for some Pitt fans, patience is key. There are many games left on the schedule, and this year’s squad will have a multitude of opportunities to prove itself before the end of the season.

Just about every pitcher on the roster has shown flashes, but consistency is crucial as the conference slate fast approaches.

It’s a process.