Roth brings experience to mound for Gamecocks
COLUMBIA -- After helping South Carolina win its second consecutive national championship last season, Michael Roth had a career stat line in the College World Series that any pitcher would envy.In seven appearances over two World Series that included five starts, he pitched 381âÑ3 innings, allowed 22 hits, 12 walks, had 26 strikeouts and a 1.17 earned-run average.But in the Major League Baseball draft, Roth was just another guy from the perspective of pro scouts. He was selected in the 31st round by the Cleveland Indians.While there is nobody else whom USC coach Ray Tanner would rather have on the mound in a big game - Roth started the past two World Series clinchers - he is not considered a can't-miss pro prospect.A big reason: Roth doesn't throw nearly as hard as pitchers like Clemson ace Kevin Brady, who will oppose Roth and the Gamecocks tonight in the rivalry series opener at Riley Park. Roth, a senior left-hander, insisted he doesn't feel any more motivated to beat a team when it starts a pitcher who scouts project as a better pro."I don't really need any extra excitement or extra motivation," Roth said. He is used to these situations."He's faced a lot of guys in our league that have ceilings, supposedly, that he doesn't have, guys that may do well in professional baseball," Tanner said.Most recently, in the final game of last year's World Series, when Florida started freshman Karsten Whitson, the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft.Despite Roth's success in the 2011 World Series, he felt his legs tire in the last third of the season, perhaps because he did too much rigorous weight-lifting, he said. He cut back and entered this season five to 10 pounds lighter. (He is listed at 210.)"I feel like that last third of the season, I could be a little bit more effective than I was last year," he said.He is also trying to develop "a legit curveball," as he put it."I still haven't really thrown it that much in a game," he said. "That's still a work in progress. The thing that makes it more effective is that follow-through (on the release). Sometimes, I just cut it off and I don't let myself get out there fully with the pitch. I kind of get an alligator arm, instead of getting full extension."He works on his curveball frequently with pitching coach Jerry Meyers but doesn't want to overexert his arm while practicing the pitch."Obviously, you don't want to go out there and snap off 50 curve balls every day, or even every other day, when we're in the middle of a season," Roth said. "But it's gotten a lot better from where I was, and so hopefully I'll be able to break it out every now and then."Maybe he will improve his draft stock this season. Maybe he won't. Either way, Tanner gets the sense Roth feels fine about his situation."Very few guys in all of college sports make a living playing their sport," Tanner said. "It's just the reality of the situation. I think he probably understands that better than anybody. He looks at reality and that: This is what I'm doing now, have fun with it, make the most of it and don't put a lot of undue pressure upon yourself."