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In search for Oregon's Sunday starter, Horton finds Gold
Release Date: 03/06/2014
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by Rob Moseley

When Cole Irvin was lost for the season and the Oregon baseball team went looking for a Saturday starter, it didn't take long for freshman Matt Krook to alleviate concerns about that slot.

Krook has been the most impressive starter so far this season for the 14th-ranked Ducks (10-3), who kick off a three-game homestand against Ohio State at PK Park on Friday (6 p.m., But that doesn't mean Oregon hasn't missed Irvin.

There's been a trickle-down effect to Irvin's injury and Krook's insertion as the Saturday starter, behind returning Friday starter Tommy Thorpe. The Ducks' Sunday slot has been a revolving door so far in 2014, with lefties Jordan Spencer and Porter Clayton having struggled in their chances to win the job.

The next candidate is senior right-hander Jeff Gold, should he rebound quickly enough from a win in Tuesday's double-header sweep of Seattle. UO coach George Horton plans to stick with Thorpe for Friday's series opener against the Buckeyes, Krook for Saturday's 4 p.m. first pitch and then Gold on Sunday at noon, presuming he's ready to go.

Gold is 3-0 in three starts this weekend, against Hawaii, Portland and Seattle. He has a 2.12 ERA with 15 strikeouts and three walks, and while the level of competition he's faced hasn't been on par with the likes of Oregon's opponent last week, Cal State Fullerton, Gold has "gotten the job done," Horton said.

"He can only do what he can do, and when you put up zeroes …" Horton said. "I think there's certain teams he matches up a little better against, just like any other pitcher. He's not a guy that throws 93, 94, like some of the arms we have. But there's a lot of ways to get people out. …

"Because he doesn't have electric stuff, when he misses sometimes it's not good. But he doesn't miss as much as some other guys. That's called pitching, and he's really good at it."

Gold was Oregon's Sunday starter after an injury to Brando Tessar in the spring of 2012, and he finished 8-4 with a 3.66 ERA that season. As a junior last fall, Gold made five starts among his 13 appearances, and was 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA.

Gold describes himself as a "crafty right-hander" and said "I hate walking people — hate walking people." His favorite professional is Felix Hernandez, but with his tools he models his game after other notable names.

"Obviously I'm not a power pitcher like (Hernandez), so I try to set myself after (former UO starter) Alex Keudell, or the right-handed Cliff Lee," Gold said. "Location, multiple pitches for strikes, keeping people off-balance."

Oregon's starting catcher for all three of Gold's starts has been Shaun Chase, who expressed confidence Gold will handle the Sunday start with aplomb.

"He and coach work really well together," Chase said. "They know what pitches are working well for him on that day, and he commands the zone like nobody else."

Krook enters the weekend still searching for his first collegiate win, despite a 2.33 ERA and 27 strikeouts against five walks. Thorpe has scuffled to a 1-1 start with a 3.93 ERA, but he made some mechanical tweaks before his start against Fullerton and hopes to see them pay dividends beginning this week.

"Tommy stepped into Friday last year, and there's no doubt he was the best pitcher on our staff," Chase said. "He rose to the occasion, and I know he will this year. His stuff's electric, and when he's on I wouldn't want to hit him."

One option that hasn't been considered for the Sunday slot is right-hander Jake Reed, who shifted from the rotation to closer for this season.

In the wake of Jimmie Sherfy's departure, Reed has three saves in six appearances this season, and has yet to allow a run. Reed got the final four outs of Tuesday's nightcap against Seattle, and earned his second win of the year after the Ducks scored in the eighth.

"I think I'm continuing to grow as a closer, as a reliever," Reed said. "I think they feel pretty confident in me at this point in the season, and they'll do whatever they can to keep me there."

The Buckeyes have started this season 7-3, after being picked to finish third in the Big Ten Conference preseason poll.

Oregon swept the Buckeyes on the road last season, but this is a new-look Ohio State team, with three new starting pitchers. The Ducks' early runs in last year's series meant they never had to face closer Trace Dempsey, a preseason all-American this year who heads a strong Buckeye bullpen.

Though early runs might be advantageous again this weekend, Kyle Garlick said the Ducks won't change their general approach of seeing 15 pitches or more per inning, to get the starter up to 90 pitches by the sixth inning.

"We try to do that every game; doesn't matter if they have the best bullpen in the country or the best starting staff," Garlick said. "We just try to take every game with the same approach."

Horton said the Ducks may again be without third baseman and leadoff hitter Scott Heineman, who has missed six games with a shoulder injury.

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