While you'd struggle to find anything but positive press surrounding the hiring of Todd Whitting to take over the Houston Cougar baseball program this off-season, he certainly got the difficulty level for year one turned up a notch the last couple of days.
First, UH signee Mitchell Taylor, a seventh-round pick of the Blue Jays out of Spring High, agreed to terms with Toronto. It was believed he was coming to Houston unless the Jays went significantly over the MLB-recommended "slot" offer, but the team did just that, offering what Baseball America called "the most above-slot deal to date for any 2010 draftee".
On Saturday, things got worse for the 2011 Cougar pitching staff.
Sophomore pitcher Michael Goodnight, who was the closest thing UH had to an ace in '10 (5.36 ERA, 7-7, 90 K in 85 2/3 IP) signed with the Cleveland Indians. Goodnight was a 13th round pick in the draft. I'm sad to see Goodnight go, not only because it hurts UH, but because he has all kinds of talent (see his seven scoreless innings of two-hit, nine-strikeout ball against Texas-Austin) and I really think this incoming coaching staff could have improved his draft standing had he played another year or two.
But alas, it wasn't meant to be. Best of luck to Goodnight. He'll always have a sweet athlete name going for him, we know this much.
All is not lost, however. Juniors Chase Dempsay and Mo Wiley, seniors Taylor Hammack and Ty Stuckey, and sophomore Eric Brooks are returning members of the pitching staff who have shown potential in the past. (Stuckey was drafted, and could still sign.) Newcomers Chase Wellbrock (Brenham High) and Jordan Lewis (Western Nevada College) look like future stars, as well. Developing a pitching staff will likely be job number one for Whitting and his staff.