Oregon baseball has something to look forward to in 2015, as former true freshman phenom Cole Irvin (SP) is expected to return after missing the 2014 season with a torn UCL. Irvin exploded onto the scene in 2013 with an Oregon single-season record 12 wins, taking only three losses including one on his second Saturday start against No. 13 UCLA, in which he threw a complete game and did not allow an earned run. He posted an impressive 2.48 ERA for the season.
The kid was a head-turner for sure, boasting a low 90s heater and respectable off-speed stuff that earned him a tryout with the Summer 2013 Team USA squad, where he threw 9 k’s in 5.2 without an earned run.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Irvin was a rock for the Ducks. He gobbled up a team high 116 innings in 2013, good for second in single season innings in team history, and came up big when the quack attack was on the ropes. The freshman All-American put an end to Duck losing streaks on three occasions, and also brought home a W when the Ducks faced elimination against San Francisco in the Eugene Regional Tournament.
And fear not, Duck faithful; we’re not losing Roy Hobbs. Odds are, come March, the kid will be right as rain. Irvin underwent Tommy John surgery, and though the rehab is a long process, pitchers who have undergone the surgery have a tendency to come back as strong as ever. Notable pro fireballers who have had the procedure include Chris Carpenter, Tim Hudson and John Smoltz, the latter two of whom were still fanning over-eager sluggers well past their 39th birthdays.
The point is, the kid is good, and he’s coming back.
Irvin underwent surgery last February, and began throwing again in September. As of today, neither he nor Oregon head coach George Horton is willing to commit to a hard date for Irvin’s return to game action, but both seemed to lean toward early this season. In an interview Wednesday, Horton was optimistic, but cautious. “There’s been no hurdles or setbacks,” he assured reporters. “We’ll start the season on a pitch count with him, probably a one or two inning pitch count and decide whether to use him at the end of the game in an emergency situation.”
Asked if we could expect to see him in the Ducks’ season opening series in Honolulu, Irvin said, “We’ll see. We’ll have to wait for the doctor’s orders on that one. I could be in Hawaii; I could not.”
Horton isn’t getting over-excited too soon, though. On Irvin and the team at large, he said “We’re gonna find out a lot more in March than we are in February.”
February or March, however, we’ll be seeing the kid with the cannon back on the mound soon, and with the gaps left by Oregon’s departing class last season, no date will be too soon.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove