For a pitching staff lacking in experience, Penn State has had to rely on depth early in the season with 15 pitchers on its roster.
The Nittany Lions (5-11) added to both experience and depth with the return of junior Greg Welsh to the rotation after missing the first 15 games of the season with a broken pitching hand. He was sidelined after being hit by a pitch in the hand a month and a half ago.
Welsh saw his first action of the season against Temple last Sunday, pitching 4 1/3 innings in relief, allowing just three hits and no runs.
“It was pretty big for me to come in this weekend and throw about 70 pitches,” Welsh said.
The left-hander was one of the Lions’ top relievers last season with a 3.68 earned run average and a 4-2 record in 25 appearances.
Welsh had to work hard to get back into pitching shape. He worked out with cuff-link weights early on to quicken the recovery process. While his teammates traveled to Texas for a road stretch of eight games in 10 days, Welsh was rehabbing back in State College, working on his throwing and trying to regain control of his pitches.
“A lot of it was getting rest,” Welsh said. “Basically when I came back I had to throw for a week, week and a half kind of get back into it and get back into the art of throwing because you can’t replicate throwing with anything else.”
Welsh’s return comes at a good time for Penn State as it begins Big Ten play this weekend against Indiana.
The Lions’ pitching staff has struggled somewhat early on, allowing 102 runs in 16 games for a 5.02 ERA.
To the coaching staff, one of Welsh’s biggest assets is the veteran leadership that he will provide.
“It’s another good arm to have back on our staff, but at the same time it’s experience,” pitching coach Jason Bell said. “That’s one of the things that no matter what you have on your staff you can’t get experience without being in situations. Having Greg back, the leadership that he provides and the situations he’s been in is huge.”
Along with the experience Welsh brings comes versatility. The majority of his time came in relief last season but he also appeared as a starter and closed games for the Lions.
In the past, Welsh was used as a specialist against left-handed hitters, with a cutter that he says can move about six to eight inches.
Welsh is scheduled to start against Indiana on Sunday and though he says that he’s not sure how the coaching staff plans to use him long term, he has earned the confidence of his teammates to perform in any role he is asked to.
“It’s huge to have another guy back,” redshirt senior Elliot Searer said. “He’s left-handed. He can close for us he can be a set up guy out of the ‘pen, relief, or he can start. He can do it all and he has a lot of confidence in himself and our coaching staff has a lot of confidence in him.”
Bell has echoed these sentiments and says that as of now Welsh has secured a starting spot in the rotation.
“We’d like for him to take that starter’s job and run with it, it’s his for the taking right now,” Bell said. “If he goes out and does what he’s capable of he’s going to stay there.”