Should Garret Claypool ever decide to run for president, just go ahead and mark down your vote.
His Tuesdays, after all, have been pretty super.
UCLA’s midweek matchups have been all-but-guaranteed with Claypool on the mound, as the El Camino Real of Woodland Hills product has become the Bruins’ most consistent pitcher.
And with probable early picks Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen also toeing the rubber, that’s saying something.
Claypool leads UCLA with a 2.02 ERA in 71 1/3 innings, holding opposing batters to a miniscule .176 clip. He has taken on the best local talent and excelled. He has bridged the gap from Rasmussen’s Sunday starts to Cole’s Friday starts, and either got the team back on track with a win or propelled the Bruins into the weekend with some momentum.
In short, he’s all UCLA head coach John Savage wants him to be.
“We look at Tuesday as just as important as our weekends,” Savage said. “We’re playing the Fullertons, the Irvines, the Pepperdines. The teams we play on Tuesday are just as good; this is a college baseball hotbed. For us to have a chance to win 40 games, to have a high RPI, to put ourselves in the position we’re in, it’s critical to have a guy who’s so dependable.
“He’s been money, man.”
Not only on Tuesdays, though.
Savage considers Claypool’s four-inning effort in UCLA’s 3-1, 16-inning win over Oregon State on April 10 as perhaps the team’s most important four innings of the season. After starting the season 22-0, the Bruins had lost three-of-four going into that Saturday matchup with the Beavers, and they needed to regain that early season momentum.
“That was just a crazy game,” said Claypool, who will square off against Cal State
Fullerton tonight at 6 p.m. “I wasn’t really expecting to throw more than two innings. I had just thrown six or seven innings, but they needed me to throw a lot. I didn’t feel great, but mentally I had to stay focused. That was one of our first big challenges. The first 22 games of the season, we’d cruised. We’d been killing teams. Going into an early series in the Pac-10, it was just big to win two of three. Sixteen innings isn’t something you see every day – I think we just showed the heart and soul of the team.”
A 32nd-round pick by the Oakland A’s in last June’s amateur draft, Claypool chose to return to Westwood to boost his draft status and to contribute to what could be the Bruins’ first appearance in the College World Series since 1997.
After a steady but unspectacular junior season ended on a high note – Claypool finished with a 3.46 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39 innings – the success has continued.
“I think it was all just a carryover from last year,” Claypool said. “I was sound mechanically, I felt comfortable. Pretty early on in the fall, we got into some intense bullpen sessions, and I could tell by then things were feeling good. I was repeating my mechanics every time, every pitch.”
With his spectacular senior season, Claypool has almost certainly increased his draft projections. His versatility could be a determining factor come June.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Claypool said. “I just want to get drafted. If that happens, I’m going to sign and going to play, and I’ll do well. But I just want a shot to play pro ball. I had higher expectations than the 32nd round. When I got chosen that late, I had to think about the best decision for me.”