By Sean Isabella | LSU Student
A lot has changed for Daniel Bradshaw since he signed with LSU in 2007 after winning the Louisiana High School Coaches Association Pitcher of the Year at Ouachita Christian School in West Monroe.
"The natural evolution of a career is you start slow and you build, build, build," observes LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "In Daniel's case, it's kind of been the reverse."
Once a heavily relied upon pitcher for the Tigers, Bradshaw has been forced to sit on the padded dugout seats of Alex Box Stadium. But the senior is not giving up.
Bradshaw came into the current season as one of Mainieri's veteran relievers. In the previous three seasons, he racked up 151 2/3 innings in 71 appearances as a starter, middle reliever and closer to go along with a 13-6 record.
He has three career SEC game starts under his belt (two wins) and boosted LSU during its 2009 championship run with five shutout innings of relief in the College World Series.
This season has been quite the opposite. As of April 3, Bradshaw had six innings in four appearances to his name.
His most extensive work came in a March 2 start against Mississippi Valley State. He allowed five runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings of work. Since then, he's had one appearance which came April 2 in mop-up duty.
"The guys [Mainieri's] putting in are doing well and they're guys coming out throwing 94, 95 miles per hour," Bradshaw said. "He's got preference for them right now."
Coming into the 2011 season, the pitching staff had taken a hit. After LSU was ousted in the NCAA regional tournament last year by UC-Irvine, Mainieri lost Anthony Ranaudo and Austin Ross to the MLB draft and Paul Bertuccini to graduation. Joey Bourgeois and Jordan Rittner had surgery to repair their elbows forcing them to miss the entire 2011 campaign and an unhappy Chris Matulis transferred to Central Florida.
Bradshaw entered the season as one of two seniors and figured he would be in line for a slew of innings.
"I prepared myself and thought I was going to get a lot of innings and be that guy out of the [bullpen] … hopefully I get another chance and prove to [Mainieri] I can still be that same guy."
Bradshaw, who turns 23 this month, looks the part of a college baseball player. It's his arm that doesn't perform like one.
At Ouachita Christian, Bradshaw finished 33-11 with a 1.51 ERA. He wasn't known to blow people away with his fastball, but he threw at a respectable speed in the upper 80s to mid-90s.
It was a perfect compliment to his lethal changeup, a sufficient combination to earn him the closer role as a freshman at LSU.
Since last season, Bradshaw's velocity has tumbled. The guy who used to top out at 91 mph, now sits in the mid-80s, at best.
"When the hitters don't respect the fastball, the changeup's effectiveness is somewhat limited," Mainieri said. "Daniel throws strikes and that's a great attribute of his, but when he throws a lot of strikes and they don't have a lot on them, unfortunately he gets hit at times."
Here's the issue: Bradshaw, Mainieri or pitching coach David Grewe don't have a clue what the matter is. Bradshaw said he's dealt with elbow tendonitis before, but nothing that has kept him off the mound for more than a week or two.
"I've been doing the same thing the past three years, so I don't know what the deal is," Bradshaw said. "It's frustrating. I've been trying to change a few things to get velocity back up."
He even lost weight during the Christmas holiday, though he has yet to see changes in velocity. It has been an up and down year. Bradshaw says there are times when he feels in the dumps, but also realizes everything should be taken with a grain of salt.
In spite of everything, Bradshaw hasn't lost his confidence or his attitude. He still believes he is a capable pitcher and can be effective without a blazing fastball.
It may be out of his hands, though. LSU signed a colossal freshman pitching class last fall that already has earned the trust of Mainieri. Indeed, freshmen Kurt McCune, Kevin Gausman, Ryan Eades, Joe Broussard and Samuel Peterson have logged more innings than Bradshaw.