Junior pitcher moves to bullpen after playing multiple positions
In a win over Toledo last season, Central Michigan junior right-handed pitcher Dazon Cole pitched his best outing of the season, giving up just six hits over seven scoreless innings.
In the 2018 season, Cole will not start games on the mound. Instead, he will pitch out of the bullpen.
“Over the summer I did well out of the bullpen, so I talked to (assistant coach Jeff) Opalewski about moving (to relief),” Cole said. “I felt coming in from the bullpen would be better for the team. We talked about that and built it into our arsenal.”
The most appealing aspect of having Cole in the bullpen is his durability, said head coach Steve Jaksa.
“He bounces back really quick, which is nice,” Jaksa said. “We can pitch him back-to-back days, so that’s huge. He could come in after the sixth inning and finish the game. That way, we don’t have to use anyone else.”
With senior right-handed pitcher Colton Bradley locking down the closer position, Cole believes he will fit right in with the rest of the bullpen.
“I think I’ll fit in there well,” Cole said. “We have Colton as a closer and a couple of relievers already there. Being another extra guy in the bullpen will help us out a lot.”
Bradley posted 10 saves for the Chippewas last season, going 6-2 with a 4.10 ERA in 28 pitching appearances. He batted .250 with six RBIs in 44 at-bats.
Even though Cole will start the season as a reliever, the 5-foot-10, 177-pound junior said there is a chance he could start later in the season.
“By the way it looks, anything can happen right now,” Cole said. “I can be a starter, reliever and closer.”
Jaksa agreed, citing injuries and struggles as situations that could shake things up.
“We don’t know for sure yet where the rotation will go,” Jaksa said. “How we start the season and how we end are two different things.”
Cole, a Pontiac native, will still play in the outfield when he is not pitching for the Chippewas. At the plate last season, the 21-year-old slashed a .268 batting average, .344 on base percentage and a .366 slugging percentage with 11 RBIs.
“I’m not sure what they are going to day-to-day, but it seems like I’ll be out there a lot,” Cole said.
Last season, Cole threw 79 innings in 16 games — all starts. For the 2018 season, Jaksa does not have a set pitch or inning count for Cole.
“What we look for out of Dazon is the games will dictate how we use him,” Jaksa said. “How many pitches he throws on that day will dictate whether he can go back-to-back.”
Jaksa looked at Cole as a reliever two years ago, but it did not work out. Now, Cole gets his chance at redemption for the Chippewas.
“He was very successful last summer and we looked at him being an end of the rotation guy two years ago and it didn’t work out that way,” Jaksa said.