Junior pitcher Mathew Troupe has accomplished a lot in his two seasons as the closer of Arizona’s nationally acclaimed baseball team. Now, as he enters his third season, Troupe said that he is ready for a change of pace and wants to give starting a shot.
Troupe said his spot is “not entirely safe,” but that the current plan is for him to be the Saturday starter.
“I’ve been under the mentality of starting [this year],” Troupe said. “I know closing pretty well, and I know everything that it entails. When I started thinking about going from closer to starter, I had to change up my whole mentality, change the way I approach practice and treat my arm differently. I’m coming into the season as if I’m going to start.”
The Los Angeles native was an instrumental part of the Wildcats’ 2012 national championship as a freshman — appearing in 24 games as a reliever en route to a 6-1 record with a team-leading six saves and an ERA of 3.47 — and last season, mastered a 6-0 record as the team’s closer while accounting for nine of the Wildcats’ 16 saves. In December, he was named a third-team Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander’s ability to perform effectively in high-pressure situations makes him an ideal closer; additionally, he possesses the proper toolset and potential to fit a starting role.
“I think it’s a good move,” fellow junior pitcher Tyler Parmenter said. “I know his freshman year, he pitched against ASU as a starter in a mid-week game and did really well, and I believe in high school, he was a starter, too. I think he’s got a good arm, has really great stuff and that this transition will be beneficial for us.”
Troupe said that his repertoire this season will include a lot more off-speed pitches to accompany his blistering fastball.
“I just have to pitch a lot smarter, throw a lot more strikes and pound the zone a lot more than I normally would,” Troupe said. “It will be different at first; I have to find different ways to ring [batters] up.”
Troupe throws a four-seam fastball that averages 89-92 mph and has late movement, and also has a changeup clocking in at 78-80 mph and a curveball with a nasty 12-6 break that runs 76-78 mph.
His fastball topped out at 94 mph this summer while he was pitching for the Orleans Firebirds of the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Junior outfielder Joseph Maggi — who also played in the Cape Cod League this summer — praised Troupe’s versatility and leadership.
“He’s proven that he could do it before,” Maggi said. “Just watching him through practice — he doesn’t really prepare like a closer, he just prepares like a pitcher. I’m expecting a big year out of him. He’s coming in with some momentum off a big summer in the Cape [Cod League] where he was one of the top closers, and people on the team really look up to him. For the pitching staff, I think it’s a big plus.”
Troupe said that starting requires a much different mind-set than closing and that he learned in the fall intrasquad games that he has to conserve energy to last six or seven innings consistently.
“What I really need to note is the mind-set of being a starter, which is much different than that of a closer,” Troupe said. “I’ve always been the guy that goes out there in the ninth inning. My adrenaline is rushing. ‘OK, let’s go; I’m going right after you pretty much as hard as I can every pitch.’ You know, trying to make a perfect nine pitches to get out of there with the win.”
Troupe said he hasn’t noticed the stamina or accuracy drop that a lot of pitchers get when moving to starting from the bullpen.
“The program puts you in shape with both your arm and body, so it was a pretty easy transition in regards to stamina,” Troupe said. “But I guess I won’t really know until the season starts and I start throwing every week”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17