Casey Mize was moved to game two in the Auburn rotation this week after being the game one (Friday night) starter all year. This led to Mize missing a matchup with Ryan Rolison of Ole Miss on Thursday night.
The fan in me was pissed at hearing this. I love seeing elite pitchers go head-to-head and I was definitely looking forward to a Mize/Rolison duel. There’s just something special about seeing top pitchers face each other under the bright lights. Those match-ups force even great pitchers to step up their game. Unfortunately, that won’t happen this week.
But after being agitated for a bit, reading Butch Thompson’s reasoning made me understand.
“So really where I start is with Casey Mize and he just threw 110 pitches (in a win over Vanderbilt last weekend) and we gave him the entire fall off. We’ve made some decisions because we missed two or three weekends (last year due to arm fatigue). My job since August is for Casey to be 100 percent for 10 (conference-play) weekends. That has been a huge conviction of our coaching staff.” Butch Thompson – Auburn Head Coach
That quote pulled me out of fanboy-mode and back into reality. I support Butch Thompson’s decision. And it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
This is a big weekend with (possibly) the division lead on the line as well as a first round bye in the SEC tournament and a potential regional host slot. The easiest move is to pit ace vs. ace and hope your guy’s arm responds. But Thompson knows his pitcher, knows his history, and is looking at the long term play here.
Not only did Mize throw 110 pitches last week, he threw 110 the week before against Florida. Overall, he’s throw 100+ pitches in 4 of the previous 5 starts. That’s a big workload for any pitcher much less one that has hard arm issues in the past. With two Thursday starts in a row to end the regular season, Thompson made a great call to keep Mize on a set Friday night schedule.
For Auburn to achieve their goals the rest of the season and make a run in the NCAA tournament they are going to need a strong and healthy Casey Mize. Beyond that, it’s refreshing to see a coach put a player’s health (and future) first.