Two of UConn’s most-used bullpen arms, Ryan Radue and John Russell, have departed after accounting for 15 of the Huskies’ 17 saves in 2017. Radue graduated and is moving on to life after baseball while Russell was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and will be reporting for his first spring training soon.
The only returning player who registered a save last year, junior left-hander PJ Poulin, will likely begin the year as UConn’s closer.
“[Poulin] is the leading candidate right now,” head coach Jim Penders said. “He’s got experience and he has been in a lot of tight spots. We put him into a lot of impossible spots that he made possible.”
Poulin entered the game in all sorts of situations last year. He made 19 appearances with five starts and would sometimes enter to finish off an inning or fire off multiple frames to build a bridge to Russell, the team’s primary closer. No matter what the assignment, he was mostly successful, as he had the Huskies’ second-best ERA among pitchers with more than 30 innings.
He will be joined in the back end of the bullpen by sophomore Jacob Wallace, who was lightly used last year, getting just 13 innings of work in and allowing hitters a .283 batting average against him. But he took great strides in the Futures League over the summer where he was named an All-Star.
Randy Polonia, who was battling to close before an arm injury forced him to the shelf with eventual Tommy John surgery, is setting his sights on a return this year.
“He’s battling through that mental part of it now,” Penders said. “Letting it rip is very difficult initially.”
Outside of the three starters, junior right-hander Ronnie Rossomando was the pitcher that Penders used most, making eight starts in 17 appearances. He threw 42 2/3 innings in a swing role and might be filling in a similar slot in 2018.
“He works really hard at it,” Penders said. “Some days he’s lights out and some days he looks very hittable. He hasn’t made it obvious what his role will be, but it’s not for lack of trying.”
UConn will also have multiple freshmen to push upperclassmen for playing time in the bullpen.
Should Colby Dunlop not make the rotation out of the gate, he will be competing with fellow freshmen Angus Mayock, Jarrod Melle, Joe Simeone and Jacob Wurster to attempt to break into the depth chart of middle relievers that is held down by CJ Dandeneau, Trevor Holmes, Dan Rajkowski and Joe Rivera.