In the past, when Clemson made a pitching change, head coach Monte Lee would stroll out to the mound and signal to the bullpen when it was time to bring someone new in.
But this season pitching coach Andrew See has assumed the task of taking the ball out of one pitcher’s hand and passing it on to the new one.
Lee noted in his postgame press conference following the Tigers’ 5-2 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday that the change was not arbitrary, but a move he and See feel will benefit the development of Clemson’s young pitching staff.
“He and I had a discussion about this before the season started and I’m a pretty blunt and honest guy,” Lee said. “The reason we decided to do it was because when I come out I am kind of the Grim Reaper, ya know?”
See approached Lee this offseason and felt like the change could help make transitions at the mound more productive and that he could provide observations and insight in the brief conversations at the mound.
“Often times they are mad to see me come out because I am the one taking them out of the game,” Lee said. “Andrew felt like it was more productive for our pitching staff for him to be able to go out there and talk to our pitchers about what he is saying and try to help them and develop them instead of me just coming and taking the ball until the next guy comes to pitch.”
Closer Geoffrey Gilbert still remembers the emotions of one such visit with Lee on the mound. On opening weekend last season, the head coach elected to bring in former Tiger Carson Spiers for a save opportunity in the ninth inning rather than let Gilbert close out a two-inning save.
It was a moment Gilbert has not forgotten, and he used it as motivation in the off-season and on Saturday when he came on in the eighth inning to close the game.
“Tonight, that was on my mind. I know people say you shouldn’t be thinking about anything out there, but that was one thing that motivated me through these past 11 months, not wanting to get the ball taken out of my hands and wanting to be the guy in the ninth inning,” Gilbert said.
The motivation paid off for Gilbert as he closed out the win over the Bearcats with two scoreless innings pitched as he allowed just two hits, no walks and struck out four to earn his first save in a Clemson uniform.
While the encounter last season served as inspiration for the redshirt freshman, he reiterated that the change from Lee to See is nothing personal and that both offer helpful insight.
“That was one image that was on my mind, but at the end of the day it’s nothing personal between Coach Lee or Coach See,” Gilbert said.
Clemson returns to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. as it attempts to earn an opening weekend sweep of Cincinnati at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.