Being nestled in as the Sunday starter behind Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer is a bit like lying on the beach in Honolulu, cool breeze on your face, cooler drink in your hand, the faintest hint of pineapple.
It is a relaxing gig, a comforting one, probably a necessary one for a college freshman even if his stats may prove otherwise.
UCLA’s Adam Plutko was able to sit back and learn behind two of the best pitchers in the country, the No. 1 and No. 3 overall pick in last week’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft in Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. He was a sponge, but a sponge that was able to process information immediately and spit it back out, along with a fastball that baffled hitters to the tune of 92 strikeouts and a 2.01 ERA, second-best in the Pac-10.
All that relaxing has led him to this, a selection on the second-team freshman all-America team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Monday afternoon.
“Being the ace is nice, but it’s just a title,” said Plutko, who finished with a 7-4 record. “People can say Gerrit’s the ace or Trevor’s the ace, but that doesn’t really mean anything to me. What matters to me is going out and doing my own thing and letting Gerrit and Trevor do their thing.”
But those two will do their respective things in the minor leagues next season, and that Friday lot is open, and now it is time.
Plutko will likely slide into the Friday slot next season for the Bruins, who also return talented rising sophomores in Zack Weiss and Nick Vander Tuig, while also adding redshirt freshman Eric Jaffe.
Plutko is ready, he feels, because of the seasoning he got as a freshman, seasoning that Cole did not receive when he pitched under the Friday Night Lights in 2009.
“I wouldn’t wish it upon any freshman to be a Friday-night guy,” Plutko said. “Gerrit did it as a freshman and I’ll tell you what, that’s a real tough job. That was one of the toughest things he’s done probably in his whole pitching career. Being on Sunday, you get to see the team twice before you even pitch against them. It’s been really helpful, and when you do have two completely polar opposite pitchers, you can really pick and choose which way you want to pitch guys.”
But now the vacation is over, and the plane’s about to take off, and Adam Plutko is ready to soar.
He’s ready for the challenge, refreshed and energized.
“Next season, bring it on. I welcome it. I love targets on my back,” Plutko said, steely-eyed.