“I said we might use you like Goose Gossage was used, and he’s like, Who is that?” McCormack said.
Considered by many to be the original fireballing closer, managers of the Yankees, Padres and Pirates often employed the Hall-of-Famer for more than the now-traditional three-out save.
In that respect, FAU followers can expect to see more of Schneider this season.
“I like the role, definitely,” said Schneider, the lone Owl selected to Conference USA’s Preseason All-Conference squad.
While Schneider’s deployment this season may resemble that of Gossage, no one will ever confuse his pitching style for that of the Goose.
The physical and mechanical similarities begin and end with both throwing right handed. Where
Gossage cut an imposing presence on the mound, firing fastballs that tormented hitters, Schneider is spindly and doesn’t hit 90 mph.
Gossage’s delivery was unorthodox, turning his back to the hitter.
Schneider’s frighteningly funky. The senior comes at hitter from a sidearm, almost underhanded, slot, lunging at the batter as he releases the ball, then hopping again once his right foot hits the ground on the follow through.
The quirkiness of his delivery led to a 7-1 record and 15 saves last season for an FAU team that came within a game from winning the NCAA Tournament’s Gainesville regional.
“That’s kind of like our safety blanket,” McCormack said. “You have a guy that’s, between two years of junior college and then 15 saves in Division I, that’s a really nice thing to have.”
McCormack may need that safety blanket this year more than previous seasons. FAU’s starting rotation for the 2019 season, which begins with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch against Cincinnati on Friday, has plenty to prove.
Redshirt senior Blake Sanderson (1-2, 4.91 in 2018; 4-2, 4.55 career) enters the season without the credentials or pitch repertoire usually associated with a Friday night starter. Newcomer Ryan Sandberg, a junior college transfer, gets the ball on Saturday. Junior Mike Ruff (1-2, 2.91 in 2018), arguably the best arm on the staff velocity-wise but one that ranks near the bottom as far as control, begins the season as the Sunday starter.
Expecting to call on his bullpen more than he normally might early in the season, McCormack moved Vince Coletti from the rotation into the pen to use as a swing man and potentially fortify the late innings. Eric Keating, at one point a candidate for the weekend rotation and a pitcher who might end the season in that role, will also begin the season in the bullpen.
“I really believe in having a strong bullpen,” McCormack said. “It’s so disheartening when you lose games in the seventh, eighth and ninth. So I’ve always believed that you have to be strong there.”
Schneider will close until it’s time not to close. With the Owls desperately needing starting pitching during the NCAA tournament – McCormack elected to start Schneider in an elimination game against No. 1 Florida. Making his first career start Schneider allowed three runs on six hits over five innings to earn the win.
That’s not part of the plan this season – at least not at the beginning.
“We’ve talked about it a lot,” McCormack said. “I don’t want to do that until we have exhausted other options to start.”
FAU BASEBALL 2019 PREVIEW
MVP Candidate: McCormack talks glowingly about catcher Pedro Pages’ ability behind the plate, calling him the best throwing catcher in the southeast. The junior hit .283 with 55 RBI last season. He hit four homers in both of his first two seasons, but that total should rise this year. Pages is showing no lingering effects from a forearm injury that limited him in the fall.
Breakout Candidate: Jared DeSantolo hit four homers and drove in 24 runs while hitting .342 despite starting less than half of FAU’s games as a freshman. His power should continue to develop, and DeSantolo will have plenty of opportunities to produce. The Owls need DeSantolo’s bat in their offense this season.
Battle to Watch: FAU coach John McCormack still isn’t sure how he’ll replace one of the best players in program history. With Tyler Frank now part of the Tampa Bay organization, the Owls will likely start the season rotating three players through the two middle infield spots. Fransisco Urbaez isn’t a true shortstop, but McCormack likes the way the JUCO transfer controls the infield. Junior Wilfredo Alvarez is more of a traditional shortstop, but McCormack would like him to be more vocal. Both players could play second, as could true freshman B. J. Murray.
Newcomer Watch: Bobby Morgensen, another JUCO transfer, will be tasked with replacing David Miranda in right field. Morgensen’s bat plays. He’ll hit in the middle of the Owls’ lineup.
Pitching Possibility: Redshirt junior Eric Keating nearly won a spot in the weekend rotation, but McCormack ultimately decided he needed another lefty in the bullpen. Should one of the current starters falter early, Keating could quickly jump into the weekend rotation.