Through 23 games, junior pitcher Hoby Milner leads Texas in wins. And losses.
Milner began the season as the No. 2 starting pitcher behind sophomore Nathan Thornhill but struggled until he moved to the bullpen, where he spent most of his time during his first two years at Texas. In three starts, Milner is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA but in 11 appearances coming out of the pen, he’s 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA. Milner’s last outing was his longest and arguably his best as the Fort Worth product tossed six shutout innings in a 9-5 win over UT-Pan American Wednesday, the Longhorns’ ninth in their last 10 games.
“An outstanding performance,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido of the performance. “You see what quality pitching can do to quality hitting. We didn’t expect that to happen. We were hoping he could give us two innings in relief.”
Instead, Milner threw 101 pitches, scattering two hits and two walks across those six innings, meaning that he will not likely pitch in all three games this weekend like he did in last weekend’s series against Kansas State. The No. 19 Longhorns (14-9, 5-1) will almost certainly be without Milner today when they begin a three-game series with Cal (14-9, 1-5) at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
“We may pitch him, we may not,” Garrido said. “We’re not anxious to burn him up this early in the season. We’re not even to the halfway point yet.”
But Milner, who claims that two days of rest is plenty for him, could pitch again as soon as Saturday. Garrido said that had a series against a Big 12 foe been on the horizon, Milner would not have been left in the game that long.
“If we would have been in conference, we would not have done that. A win here is the same as a win in Round Rock,” Garrido said. “One of the factors that went into it was he was confident. He was in control. But the other thing was that we didn’t have conference play.”
Things started well enough for Milner when he assumed his role as a starting pitcher. He took advantage of Texas, scoring three times in the third inning and twice in the fourth, allowing two earned in runs in five innings to pick up his first win of the season. But Milner surrendered nine runs over his next two starts against No. 3 Stanford and Tennessee, lasting just four innings in each of those outings.
“I think my mindset was a little different when I was starting,” Milner said. “I was trying to go out there and try to last seven or eight innings, so I wasn’t pitching my normal game. I realized when I came back to the pen that I could be really effective.”
Since returning to the bullpen, Milner has improved dramatically, as evidenced by his last four outings, each of which have come in Texas’ last four contests. In all three games against the Wildcats last week, Milner was the first pitcher out of the pen to replace the Longhorns’ starter, allowing just one run in 4 2/3 innings of work. After his performance Wednesday, Milner is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA over that four-game stretch.
“I think it’s a relief for him because that’s what he was used to doing the last couple of years,” said Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson. “It’s a comfort zone. He’s pitching in a zone that’s comfortable for him.”
Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Milner thriving after move from rotation to bullpen