GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tyler Dyson already is being considered as a potential closer for Florida baseball, which says a lot about the freshman right-hander.
It’s even more impressive considering Dyson didn’t start pitching until a little more than a year ago.
He tells the story best.
“I was a shortstop growing up, and senior year of high school, I guess the summer going in, I threw a couple innings for my summer team, and I guess I threw hard enough,” Dyson said. “So my high school coach saw that, and he wanted to pitch me. It’s what I could do to help my team win then. It was the best opportunity for us, so I just did whatever my coaches asked, and then I came here and just took the pitcher role full on.”
Throwing hard enough is never a problem for the freshman from Bradenton, who routinely hits the middle to upper 90s on the radar gun.
Dyson has made 5 appearances out of the bullpen, with 8 strikeouts and only 1 walk while giving up 2 hits and 1 run over 6 1/3 innings.
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan had seen enough by last weekend to say that Dyson might emerge as Florida’s top back-of-the-bullpen option.
He readily admits, though, that the 6-foot-2, 230-pound newcomer from Braden River High School has exceeded expectations.
“We knew he was big and strong and had a good arm. I didn’t know he was going to be like this. If I [said I] did, I’d be lying,” O’Sullivan said. “So that’s why I’ve been kind of bringing him along a little slower because he is fairly new to pitching, but I think it’s about time we probably throw him in the fire a little bit and see what he can do, and he’s obviously proven himself. Obviously, he’s got a great arm.”
Dyson said he had offers from smaller schools to focus on being a position player. Florida wanted him as a pitcher [though he also is listed on the roster as an infielder], and it was easy to jump at the opportunity to join one of the top programs in the country.
He didn’t know initially if he’d be used as a starter or a reliever. Dyson said he has no preference about his role.
If he ends up as the closer, all the better.
“Someone’s going to evolve into that role, whether it’s me or Frank [Rubio] or somebody else in the bullpen,” he said. “But if I go into close games, my mentality is just to shut it down and not let the offense get anything going. I just want to end the game if I’m a closer.”
Heater is the beater
Dyson acknowledges he must work on command of off-speed pitches and being more consistent in getting ahead in the count. But, by any metric, he’s off to a solid start.
Thanks to that blazing fastball.
He says he’s not sure the fastest he’s thrown this season and that he doesn’t get caught up in velocity numbers.
“I’ve been up there in the upper 90s, but I don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff,” he said. “I just try to throw strikes and throw it by the guy. If it goes fast, it goes fast.”
It goes very fast, and so, too, has his emergence as a factor for Florida’s rebuilt bullpen.
Dyson hasn’t been a pitcher for long, but he looks like a natural on the mound.
“I love to compete, and when it’s me versus the hitter 1-on-1 with the ball in my hands I just want to be competitive in everything I give,” he said. “So as long as I’m able to compete, I feel like I’m good as a pitcher.”