JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Johnny Magliozzi struts out to the mound every appearance as “Wild Thing” blares from the speakers. With his season so far, the tune from “Major League” doesn’t suit him. Sure the right-hander from Boston has the same bravado Ricky Vaughn terrorized hitters with. But, the sophomore pounds the strike zone and rarely finds himself behind a batter. He’s bought into the Sully System and it’s time Florida’s relievers take his lead.
It’s simple. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan wants his pitchers to throw two of the first three pitches in an at-bat for a strike. Yet, he’s making more visits to the mound than he wants. Every reliever not named Magliozzi, Jay Carmichael, or Ryan Harris has struggled with command. Starting pitchers aren’t immune either.
Even Harris, who leads Florida with 15.1 innings, had a rough stretch during the six-game losing streak.
“You can only beat a dead horse so many times,” O’Sullivan said.
Magliozzi didn’t do anything special against Jacksonville on Tuesday night. His fastball served as his pitch of choice. He kept the ball down except for a few batters. All but 16 of his 49 pitches went for strikes. He earned the victory with 3.1 shutout innings.
The sixth-year coach wanted more innings for freshmen like right-hander Mike Vinson and left-hander Parker Danciu. Both freshmen struggled at John Sessions Stadium.
With Southeastern Conference play 10 days away, the Gators need their middle relief to develop. Florida won’t last with three pitchers — Carmichael, Harris and Magliozzi — responsible for 56 percent of innings from the bullpen.
“We have a lot of good pitchers. We need some people to step up,” Magliozzi said. “Everyone has been throwing pretty well, but when it gets to SEC play we got to start throwing more strikes.”
He can relate with his fellow pitchers. The strike zone doesn’t change with age, but he too went through the same growing pains.
“I can help them a lot, because that was me last year,” Magliozzi said. “You got to buy into the system Sully gets us. You got to buy in and throw strikes. You have to attack.”
The Sully System isn’t anything revolutionary. A pitcher has heard a variation of it at every level of baseball.
“We’re trying to be too fine,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re trying to miss bats, and we’re trying to do too much. They have to learn. It’s as simple as that.”
O’Sullivan has always preached the same message to his pitchers. He spent 20 minutes at practice on Monday discussing just that. Perhaps the young guns this year are visual learners. If that’s the case, they don’t have to look far for a perfect example.
Gators go with Dent at short: While Cody Dent went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, he played error-free at shortstop. He replaced injured starter Richie Martin. The freshman had reached base in all 12 of his games this season. Dent batted from the ninth spot. After an opening weekend average of .375, he’s gone 2 for 25 at the plate.
Tuesday marked the fourth-career nod for Dent at the position. Dent started a 6-4-3 double play to end the second inning. He moved to centerfield in the sixth after O’Sullivan used a double-switch. Second baseman Casey Turgeon shifted over to shortstop for the first time since high school. Although he committed an error, which led to a run, he enjoyed the experience.
“That’s where I always used to play,” Turgeon said. “It feels great to get back over there.”
No rest for the weary: Florida (6-7) attempts to reach .500 for the first time since its opening weekend on Wednesday night when it hosts Jacksonville (4-8) at 7 in McKethan Stadium.
O'Sullivan didn't know after the game who would start in the second of back-to-back matchups against the Dolphins. The coach said he'd decide on the bus ride back to Gainesville.
"It is probably going to be one of those lefties for sure," he said. Left-handers Daniel Gibson and Corey Stump were two pitchers he mentioned.
Florida finds itself in its second five-game week of 2013. The Gators played five games the week of facing UCF, Georgia Southern and Florida Gulf Coast.
Contact Adam Pincus at apincus at alligator.org.