CLEMSON – To put it in horse racing terms, Clemson relief pitcher Daniel Moskos has hit the trifecta. His ability to throw in the mid 90s, thrive in pressure situations and, maybe most importantly, do it with his left arm has professional scouts drooling.
It is a rare feat to find a left-handed relief pitcher that relies on power more than deception and curveballs to mow down batters. Moskos, a sophomore, does both, which makes him on of the top, young relievers in the country.
In 27 appearances, Moskos has an anorexic 1.69 ERA, nine saves and 41 strikeouts in 42.2 innings of work. He is, without question, one of the major components in Clemson’s quest of the College World Series.
“It’s nice to have a guy at the end of a game like Moskos,” said Tigers pitcher coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “I don’t think there’s any team that’s got a legitimate chance of going all the way that doesn’t have a guy at the end of a ballgame.”
However, when the 2006 season got underway, Moskos was tabbed simply as a middle reliever.
He was coming off a freshman year where he struggled at times to throw strikes and early on, there was little reason to believe this season was going to be any different.
Moskos once again found throwing strikes a chore, but when Steve Richard had problems shutting the opposition down as the team’s closer, head coach Jack Leggett and O’Sullivan had to look for other options.
They turned to Moskos and it was as though a light switch was turned on as it all clicked for him suddenly. When he took to the mound with the game on the line, his concentration increased and his pitching was the beneficiary of it.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s doing as well as he’s doing,” O’Sullivan said. “But I guess unexpected is a better word.”
After a few outings in his new role, it was evident that Clemson had found what it’d been looking for late in a game.
“It just so happened that I was given a chance earlier in the year and I got the job done a couple of times and just settled in to that role,” Moskos said. “Now, I’ve established myself in that role and every time out there, I’ve thrown the ball pretty well.”
Moskos’ success as the closer didn’t come without some hard work. During last summer, he pitched for the Cotuit Ketteleers of the Cape Cod League, where he developed a pitch that he was familiar with, but had never used.
Rather than solely rely on his fastball in the high 80s and a curveball, his coach wanted him to throw fastballs and changeups to keep the hitters off balance.
Moskos had dabbled with the changeup as a freshman, but only in workouts, not in a game. That made mastering the pitch a lot easier.
“Everyday in our throwing drills here at Clemson, we have a 45-foot drill where we throw changeups, so I’ve always had a feel for it,” he said. “I just developed it to that next level where I could throw it to both sides of the plate and throw it in any count when I wanted to.
“Developing the changeup was just huge, because it looks so much like a fastball. It’s been a huge pitch for me.”
After getting adding another pitch to his arsenal, Moskos’ next task was to develop his velocity. Now with the ability to throw a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup, adding speed to his pitches would make him that much better.
Moskos took much of the fall off because he had a dead arm from throwing all summer. But before the season started, Drew Firoenza introduced him to a new workout that involved long tossing.
The long tossing, which is throwing at great distances, enabled him to stretch his arm and get it looser, which in turn allowed him to increase his velocity to regularly pitch in the low 90s and top out around 95.
The only thing left was for Moskos to throw strikes consistently, and as stated earlier, that seemed to happen when Leggett and O’Sullivan turned to him to close out games and thus, the complete package was born.
“Moskos is a tough kid and he’s got a great arm and he’s really learned to harness his stuff,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s hard to find a closer. Number one is to have the stuff, but more importantly is the mentality and being able to handle pressure situations. He’s been able to do it and it’s not an easy position to find.
“It’s not like you go recruiting and you say that guy’s going to be our closer. A closer just kind of develops amongst your staff and that’s what happened to Moskos. He’s certainly developed into that role.”