The greatest-good principle played heavily into determining what role Mark Winkelman would fill this season for Creighton’s baseball team.
Winkelman has been a workhorse out of the bullpen, appearing in 99 games the past three seasons. With three other key relievers having graduated, Winkelman’s experience would be invaluable.
At the same time, the Bluejays has to find replacements for their three weekend starters. So Winkelman worked as a starter during fall practice with the idea that he might switch roles for his senior season.
When Creighton opens its season Friday at Dallas Baptist, Winkelman will be in the bullpen. In the end, Bluejay coach Ed Servais said, the decision on how to use the 6-foot-2, 205-pound left-hander came down to simple math.
“I went back and forth on the decision,” Servais said. “Mark and I talked about it a couple times this fall, and he’s an open-minded guy and a good team player. He wouldn’t have fought it if we had asked him to make the move.
“But it came down to whether he would be more valuable to us if we got him into 35 games or 15. As much emphasis as we put on trying to close out games from about the fifth inning on, it just made sense to keep him in the bullpen. His ability to be in 35 games is where he can help us the most.”
Winkelman, too, believes he can have the biggest impact as a reliever.
“I love coming out of the bullpen, especially with runners on base in the late innings,” Winkelman said. “I thrive being in pressure situations. I’ve been in a lot of them in the last couple of years.
“I was a starter in high school, and it was a little different getting used to relieving my freshman year. I’ve definitely adapted to it, and I think I have a bullpen mindset now.”
What exactly is that?
“You have to have a short memory,” he said. “Things don’t always go your way but when they don’t, you know you still could be out there the next day. If you’re a starter and have a bad game, you have to think about it for a week.
“I’ve come to understand that as a reliever that no matter how you do, you have to let it go right away.”
Winkelman is coming off his best season, having compiled a 2-1 record and a 2.57 ERA in 37 appearances. He pitched a career-high 49 innings and limited hitters to a .256 batting average.
As a sophomore, Winkelman was 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 35 appearances. He pitched in 27 games as a freshman in 2010, going 2-3 with two saves and a 4.37 ERA.
Though Winkelman will stay in the bullpen, he could have a big influence on Creighton’s starting staff. Nick Musec is the only other senior pitcher on a team that figures to depend heavily on a group of young, talented arms this season.
Servais is bullish on the potential his newcomers showed in the fall but he also knows that young pitchers tend to have their share of ups and downs. Given that, he said, it’s important to have a player with Winkelman’s experience to help show them the ropes.
“I want those young guys to watch how Mark carries himself,” Servais said. “He’s always had great mound presence, and it’s only going to get better. We have some guys in the bullpen that have great potential but they might not understand how you have to carry yourself out there.
“Mark’s always had that attitude that no one is going to get a hit off of him, no one is going to get a free opportunity off of him. I’m hoping that rubs off on some of those other guys that might not have the experience that Mark does.”
Winkelman is ready to do whatever he can to assist in the development of his younger teammates.
“Nick and I are the seniors on this pitching staff, and we’ve tried to set an example with our work ethic and how we go about practice,” he said. “We don’t have a problem trying to pick up one of younger guys if they need it or talking with them if they have questions.
“We do have a lot of young talent and they can definitely help our team out this season. I’m excited to see how those young guys step up.”
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