Taylor Elman found himself taking the mound last spring as a Creighton freshman lacking the one thing any pitcher ever wants to be without.
Trust in his stuff.
“No trust is a killer,” Elman said.
Elman flashed signs of big-time potential during the 2013 season in which he posted a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings over 13 appearances. There also were plenty of rocky moments as Elman seemed unable to establish consistency from inning to inning and sometimes from batter to batter.
“Some of it was youth, maybe some immaturity,” Elman said. “Looking back on it, nerves really got to me. I think those are reasons for all the innings where things kind of fell apart. Inconsistency might be the best way to describe it.”
Based on what he’s seen through the first four weeks of fall drills, Creighton coach Ed Servais believes Elman has overcome some of the issues that plagued him during his freshman year. Servais rates four of Elman’s five fall scrimmage appearance as outstanding, with the fifth being OK.
That’s left Servais and his staff with greater expectations for the 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander from Omaha Creighton Prep.
“If we were opening the season this weekend,” Servais said, “Taylor would be in the rotation.”
Servais is pleased with the progress all of Creighton’s young pitchers have shown this fall. Five of the 10 pitchers who threw more than 14 innings last spring were freshmen, with redshirt freshman Tommy Strunc and true freshman Austin Groth making up two-thirds of the weekend rotation.
“We had to rely on our young pitchers a lot last year, probably too much, but it was what we had,” Servais said. “They’ve all come back and just look a lot more comfortable with what we’re trying to do. They’re throwing more strikes than they did last year.”
Throwing strikes isn’t the only sign of progress Servais has seen in Elman.
“He’s just more consistent in how he goes about his daily work,” Servais said. “We always felt like he’s had a tremendous upside. His velocity has picked up, but it’s more about his approach to his daily work.
“Last year, we’d see flashes of good things in games, but he had problems with consistency. He was a little inconsistent with his daily work, and that’s where it all starts.”
Elman credits his growth to his time pitching in the West Coast summer collegiate league for the Bend (Ore.) Elks. He got a chance to work on his slider in pitching almost 55 innings while adding a few miles per hour to his fastball.
“Bend is a long way away from Omaha, and I think that allowed me to become more independent,” Elman said. “I learned how to carry myself without having someone to supervise me. I was on my own and learning how to handle myself.”
Elman is excited about his chances of making a greater impact this season, and he believes the other young pitchers on the staff are capable of making similar progress.
“We return quite a few guys that got meaningful innings last year,” he said. “I think that gives our staff as a whole a chance to be stronger. We have more guys running out there that have some experience now.”
NOTES: Creighton played one outside competition this fall, scrimmaging the University of Nebraska at Kearney. ... Servais said his team is as healthy for fall practice as any he’s possibly had at Creighton. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’re getting a little better,” Servais said. “It’s hard when you have six or seven players in the dugout that can’t participate. It adds to the frustration of what you want to get done in the fall, and we haven’t done that.” ... Creighton had six pitchers throw 90 mph or better during the team’s recent scout day. “That being said, it doesn’t do you any good if you throw 90 and you can’t throw strikes,” Servais said. “But we are getting a little closer to becoming more of the power staff I’d like to see us become.”