With former ace Andy Suarez graduated, Enrique Sosa out for the season after shoulder surgery, Derik Beauprez kicked off the team for violating rules and reliever Michael Mediavilla shifting from the bullpen to starter, plenty of questions surrounded Miami’s 2016 rotation.
At least for now, the Hurricanes have emphatically put those concerns to rest.
Left-handed junior Danny Garcia celebrated his 22nd birthday Sunday by allowing two hits and one walk over seven innings to lead the No. 6 Canes to an 8-1 victory over Rutgers.
“Danny Garcia pitched outstanding,’’ said UM coach Jim Morris.
Junior shortstop Johnny Ruiz chipped in with a career day: four-for-four at the plate with 3 RBI.
But the stars of the weekend clearly were on the mound.
How dominant were the Canes’ three starters in the opening-weekend series?
They combined to allow nine hits, one earned run and two walks in 18 innings pitched. They struck out 15. Their combined ERA: 0.50.
UM (3-0) surrendered only 12 hits all weekend to Rutgers (0-3), a member of the Big Ten.
“It felt good,’’ Garcia said. “I was just trying to command my fastball, command both sides of the plate. We worked so hard in practice and outside of the field. We had a very successful weekend.’’
Leading into Sunday’s series finale at Alex Rodriguez Park, Thomas Woodrey got the win Friday in his first opening-night start and Mediavilla pitched a masterful six innings Saturday. The bullpen also excelled, with freshman Frankie Bartow, junior Cooper Hammond and junior Bryan Garcia keeping Rutgers scoreless in appearances the first two games.
On Sunday in front of 2,888 fans, right-handed freshman Andrew Cabezas – drafted out of Coral Gables High in the 34th round by the Cleveland Indians – made his collegiate debut in the eighth inning, allowing one walk, two groundouts and one out through the air.
Redshirt freshman Keven Pimentel gave up Rutgers’ lone run in the ninth, but eventually struck out the side.
Danny Garcia, a Miami Westwood Christian High grad, made his first career start as part of a weekend rotation. Last year the 6-1, 205-pound Garcia made 23 appearances with 11 starts, recording a 7-1 record and 3.69 ERA and leading all pitchers with 80 strikeouts. He threw 92 pitches and struck out four Sunday.
“I felt really good about our pitching,’’ Morris said, when asked what he learned about his team this weekend. “Our rotation is a little different than what it was last year. You can’t outscore people every weekend. You gotta pitch and you’ve gotta have a good bullpen.’’
The Canes had 11 hits and went ahead 2-0 in the first, then added a pair of runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and three in the eighth. Only three of the eight runs were earned.
Ruiz’s four-hit day included a double. He was 2 for 3 on Saturday. He now has six hits in nine at-bats, with two walks.
Ruiz said he didn’t hit as well this past fall during scrimmages, so he “really focused on that this winter break.’’
Added Ruiz: “I felt pretty good the last two or three weeks. I’ve been seeing the ball well. Maintaining that throughout the entire season is the most challenging part.”
Ruiz, like Morris, mentioned the “team’’ effort Sunday, saying everyone contributed.
Seven of UM’s hits came in the sixth inning or later.
“We broke out there a little bit toward the end of the game so I think we’re starting to get it together,’’ Ruiz said. “It was only the first weekend, but it’s a good step in the right direction.’’
UM meets St. Thomas University at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Mark Light Field. Right-handed sophomore Jesse Lepore (0-0, 1.93 ERA in 14 innings last season) will start for the Hurricanes. After St. Thomas, UM will host the No. 1 Gators in a three-game weekend series.