For Oklahoma senior pitcher Jeremy Erben, his time as a Sooner is truly coming full circle. After spending one year at Weatherford College, the New Braunfels native was OU’s Opening Day starter in 2008 as a sophomore. Last year, elbow problems forced him to miss the early part of the season but once he returned, he pitched strictly in relief, earning six wins with one save. However, this year, Erben returned to a starting role and made his first start on April 11 against Missouri. That was his first start since June 1, 2008 against Arizona State in the NCAA Tempe Regional. He has spent much of 2010 in relief and heading into this weekend’s series at Texas Tech, he was 6-0 (tied for second in the Big 12) with a 2.61 ERA (seventh-best in the Big 12). Erben also had 44 strikeouts while walking only 11. He is slated to start for the Crimson and Cream on Sunday afternoon at Dan Law Field in Lubbock. Here’s more from this 5-11 righthander.
How do you look at the 2010 season thus far?
Erben: Of course, it’s been a pretty good start for us. I didn’t expect to have the start that I have had this year. We worked extremely hard in the off-season and started off really hot. Things were just going our way there for a while.
Is going from strictly being a reliever to now also starting a big adjustment for you?
Erben: It’s a different mentality for me. I’m kind of like a get up and go guy. I can be ready in 10-12 throws. With starting, you have all week to think about it. I don’t want to say you’re too prepared but your whole mentality is just about the game you’re going to start. As a reliever, you have to be ready to go at any time. That was kind of an adjustment that I needed to make. I think what helped me was that there is still a possibility of me coming in and maybe throwing an inning or two on Friday and still maybe being available for the start on Sunday. That aspect of it has kept me from putting too much on Sunday games. I am still mentally prepared for Friday or Saturday if needed.
Which do you like better, being a starter and knowing exactly when you will pitch next or being a reliever and knowing you could get the call basically at any time?
Erben: After starting my first year as a sophomore, I had to overcome an injury last year and came back in the bullpen. I think being a reliever fits my mentality more because I like to be in every game and just the fact that I can get up and get ready to go so quickly. Starting, I really try to approach it the same way. I really try to keep the same routine I have as a reliever, whether it’s just doing my regular routine of throwing before the game and getting some sprints in. I try to play it out like all the other starters do with a long stretching session and a long throwing program before you even get on the mound. In that aspect, I try to keep it the same just so I wouldn’t get too far out of my routine which I’m accustomed to coming in out of relief. So, I really don’t prefer one over the other. I just try to keep things simple and on the same routine as possible.
Earlier this year, you went 22 2/3 innings without giving up a run. Talk about that streak.
Erben: That’s just baseball. Baseball is a game of streaks and all that kind of stuff. I just happened to be fortunate to go through a streak where things were working for me. I was locating my pitches and had good defense behind me. I try not to put too much on stats and stuff but I know my ERA was really low. After that shaky Sunday start against Missouri, it had gone up a bit. It was a great experience. I really didn’t think I was doing anything different than I had been before. Things were going well.
As a senior, you’re one of OU’s co-captains. How big of an honor is that for you?
Erben: My teammates had ballots and they voted on captains. It shows that the guys have trust in me to be a leader. Hopefully, I’ve been able to show them that. It was just a big honor to have those guys vote on me to be a leader of this team.
Are you starting to think about the 2010 draft at all?
Erben: Well, we’ve got talent on our team, so there are going to be scouts either way. I’ve just been receiving the usual questionnaires from most of the Major League teams and I’ve been filling those out. I haven’t had any sit-down meetings or anything like that with any of the guys. I’m hoping they’re interested with the amount of questionnaires they’re sending.
Do you think being able to start as well as relieve will help improve your draft stock?
Erben: Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know how scouts evaluate that. I figure it would be the best of both worlds as long as I can continue having success on both sides of it whether it is coming out of the pen or starting. I figure it couldn’t hurt. Why not if you can do both? I’m sure that’s a plus in all aspects of the game.
Considering how close OU has been to reaching Omaha in the last few years, what would it mean for you guys to get to the College World Series this year?
Erben: It would be an unreal experience. I can’t even imagine what it would be like, especially with this year being the last year at Rosenblatt (Stadium). It would just be a dream come true of course. This season reminds me a lot of my senior year in high school. My junior year, I had to overcome an injury and my senior year, I came back, had a good year and we ended up winning the state championship. Everything seems like it’s setting up like that with the injury my junior year of college and now, this year I’m throwing well and things are going well. I just can’t help but think about how it reflects so much on my high school year. I just keep thinking about us getting to Omaha and how awesome that would be. It would be an incredible experience. I really hope our team can make it there and be able to take that all in and experience the last year at Rosenblatt.
Which Big 12 stadium do you consider the toughest to pitch in?
Erben: Well, I remember the time I noticed it the most was when we went down to A&M my sophomore year. That was my first year here and we went down to A&M. Those guys do their research down there. They know everything about you. They know everything from your birthday to what your girlfriend’s name is. They definitely do their research. I don’t think I was expecting that, stepping out there on Friday and starting against them. That place was packed and you’re hearing it from every angle. That’s been the toughest place to play so far in my career here. The whole Big 12 is full of tough places to play. We’ve got Bedlam, which is insane but that’s kind of split 50/50 and not overwhelmed by one side. Texas always brings really big crowds to their stadium. A&M is definitely the toughest place to play.
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