Wednesday, May 27, 2009

SDSU's pitching dilemma: Strasburg or Lavigne?

San Diego State is taking its sweet time naming a starting pitcher for Friday's NCAA Regionals game against Virginia.

No. 1 starter Stephen Strasburg (13-0) or No. 2 starter Tyler Lavigne (7-2)?

Inquiring minds are eager for an answer.

If it seems like starting Strasburg is a no-brainer, consider that Lavigne was able to pitch — and pitch well — on just two days' rest in last week's Mountain West Conference Tournament. Strasburg has not shown the same recuperative powers. So going with Lavigne against the Cavaliers and saving Strasburg for Saturday's game may give SDSU its best chance of success.

This isn't exactly what the programmers at ESPN had in mind when they selected the Irvine Regional as one of the two — among 16 four-team regionals — to televise this weekend on ESPNU. Or didn't you notice that the SDSU-Virginia game is scheduled for 4 p.m., which, if my math is correct, corresponds to 7 p.m. on the East Coast.

Prime time.

That isn't SDSU coach Tony Gwynn's concern.

"We're doing what's best for San Diego State," said Gwynn. "We're going up there to win. We're not going up there just to make an appearance for the first time in 18 years. We're going up there to try to win and whatever situation puts San Diego State in the best position to win, that's what we're going to do. And honestly we haven't decided yet. You try to get your scouting reports, you try to look at rosters, you try to look at matchups, look at what kind of success they've had, who they've played; all those things go into it.

"Obviously Stephen (Strasburg) is our horse, but I think we can win with Tyler Lavigne. We'll see. My mind isn't made up on it. (Pitching coach) Rusty Filter came to my office this morning and we talked about it for about 20 minutes. I know Stephen wants the ball, but Tyler Lavigne wants the ball, too. It's about trying to set it up so it puts us in the best position to win."

Strasburg said it doesn't matter to him if he pitches Friday or Saturday.

"No, no preference," he said. "We're going to have to win at least two games. Whichever game I'm pitching, I'm going to give it everything I have. I'm confident with the other pitchers that we have and the hitters that we have that if we play our best baseball we should be able to get the job done."

Strasburg said the Aztecs' mindset will be one of the keys to advancing.

"Obviously we have to play our best baseball," said Strasburg. "We've played 61 games so far this year and I think we still have yet to play our best game. We need to go out there and play loose and really learn from what happened at the conference tournament championship. I thought at some point as a team we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. That's what we're going to go do this weekend."

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