No matter how rough the last couple of outings have been for Durbin Feltman, it hasn’t changed Brian Howard’s opinion.
“He’s the best closer in the country,” Howard said after Sunday’s 8-5 victory against Baylor at Lupton Stadium, which required three pitchers to finish the ninth inning.
Howard is not alone in his thinking about Feltman in the TCU dugout, but coach Jim Schlossnagle acknowledged concern Sunday about an out-of-nowhere slump in which the sophomore closer has hit a batter and walked six while recording only two outs over his last two appearances.
“I don’t know what he’s got going,” Schlossnagle said. “Last two times out, he struck the first hitter out and then kind of lost feel for it.”
Feltman converted the first 18 saves of his career for the Horned Frogs, including in all three rounds of the NCAA postseason a year ago, until last week’s blown save at West Virginia. The six walks in the last 0.2 innings doubled his season total to 12, one more than he had last year.
In 43 appearances covering 50.2 innings at TCU, Durbin Feltman is 5-1 with a 2.31 ERA, 18 saves, 69 strikeouts and 23 walks. Six walks have come in the last 0.2 innings.
Schlossnagle expressed full confidence in Feltman a week ago, and the players share the belief that Feltman will bounce right back with the first-place Frogs preparing for a weekend Big 12 series at Texas Tech after hosting Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday night.
“He’s a smart kid,” catcher Evan Skoug said. “Sometimes he just gets a little too hyped up and thinks too much. But he’s going to be fine. Coach Saarloos is going to work with him. He’ll be just fine.”
Howard said innings sometimes get away from pitchers.
“Yeah, for whatever reason — it’s happened to me,” he said. “When it happens to a closer, it’s definitely going to be under a magnifying glass. I know he’s going to come back strong. He let a few fastballs get away from him, and that happens.”
12.3 Strikeouts per nine inning at TCU for Durbin Feltman, compared to 4.1 walks.
Asked if there is anything he could say to the young closer, Howard shook his head.
“No, because I don’t know what it’s like to have the best stuff in the country,” he said. “I’ve never been able to throw a fastball 97 mph. His slider’s harder than my fastball. He’s earned a ton of trust, and I have nothing but faith that the next time he gets the ball, we’re going to win a ballgame.”
No. 5 TCU vs. Stephen F. Austin
6:30 Tuesday (FSSW-Plus)