Former Oregon catcher Mitch Karraker became Oregon’s pitching coach on Jan. 12, just four days after Dean Stiles departed for the same position with Florida International.
Karraker, a former undergraduate assistant and student manager, is now in charge of what many believe is the best starting rotation Oregon has seen since the team’s reinstatement in 2009. It features three left-handers: Cole Irvin, Matt Krook and David Peterson. Krook and Irvin both suffered injuries that required Tommy John surgery in 2014.
The Emerald took some time to catch up with Karraker and welcome him to his new position:
Emerald: Welcome back. How’s it been?
Mitch Karraker: It’s been good, y’ know? Thrown into the job pretty quickly, but I’ve been around here for a long time, I know the guys.
E: You’re walking into a pretty strong staff. How does it look to you? What are your thoughts early on?
MK: It’s a pretty special staff. Like everybody’s talking about, the potential is unbelievable. We’re really excited about what it could be. We still have a lot of work to do. We still need to get them on track, we need to get the results in.
E: What’s your focus with your staff? Getting healthy, shaking off the rust?
MK: We’re actually pretty healthy, it’s just kind of building those guys back up. A couple guys are coming back from surgery and some freshmen are coming back from stuff they had in high school. Getting them game ready is the key: make sure we’re throwing strikes and giving our defense a chance.
E: On the injuries: is there a different long-term strategy this season? With Krook and Irvin both getting hurt over the past couple years, that’s some hefty losses. Are you going to do things differently?
MK: We’re always looking on how we can improve not only our performance, but our injury prevention. With the pitching side of it, nowadays Tommy John has become pretty common. We’re doing our best to avoid that as much as possible and we’re trying to design our program so that we don’t have those issues anymore. That being said, things are going to happen and we’re going to do our best to deal with it, learn from it and make ourselves better.
E: You obviously played here and kept tabs on the team. What would it be like for you catching this staff? Is it the best staff Oregon’s shown since the reinstatement?
MK: Catching it would be pretty fun. I’ve caught some pretty good guys when I was here, we’ve had some good staffs throughout the years. A rotation like this has been something we haven’t had. Three left-handers that have first- or second-round potential.
E: How’s catcher Tim Susnara doing handling this staff?
MK: He’s fantastic. He’s made huge steps forward in the catching position. As a freshman it’s very difficult to come into the Pac-12 and be a productive catcher, not to say he wasn’t productive last year, but I feel like this could be a real big year for him.
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