Eric Wedge makes first appearance as coach
An all-Shocker coaching staff for the Wichita State baseball team is one piece closer.
Head coach Eric Wedge, who was hired May 29 and starred for WSU from 1987-89, announced Thursday that pitching coach Mike Pelfrey, who pitched for the Shockers from 2003-05, will remain on the staff. Pelfrey will be the lone holdover from Todd Butler’s staff, as a university spokesperson confirmed to The Eagle that assistant Sammy Esposito and director of operations Scott Gurss will not return.
“I made the comment at (Wedge’s) press conference whether he keeps me or not, he’s the right guy for the job,” Pelfrey told The Eagle. “Obviously I’m pumped to get to do it with him, but I’m positive that Wichita State baseball is going to get back to what this university deserves and what it expects.”
Next, Wedge will look for replacements as the team’s hitting coach and director of operations. The team could also have a volunteer assistant coach.
But for now, Wedge was happy to bring back Pelfrey. It will be Pelfrey’s second year coaching at the Division I level after he retired from Major League Baseball in 2017 following a 12-year career.
“Mike Pelfrey is a quintessential professional and one of the most accomplished players in the illustrious history of Wichita State baseball,” Wedge said in a statement. “I wanted him to continue leading and mentoring our pitching staff, and I am ecstatic he has decided to stay on. With his expansive amount of experience and knowledge from being a Shocker and veteran Major League pitcher, I am confident Mike will continue helping our pitchers reach new heights.”
The Shockers had mixed results on the mound in Pelfrey’s first season as pitching coach. More than a third of the total innings pitched were by first-year players last season, as WSU posted its second-highest earned-run average (5.39) and highest walks per nine innings (5.3) as a staff in the Butler era.
But it’s also true WSU pitched at its best when it mattered the most. The Shockers’ pitching staff maintained a 3.56 ERA in the final 11 games of the regular season, which allowed WSU to push for its first appearance in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals.
Pelfrey, who was hired one month from the start of the season, hopes a full offseason and the strong closing to the 2019 season points to improved pitching for WSU. The Shockers will have to replace staff ace Clayton McGinness, as well as reliever Alex Segal and closer Mitchell Walters, who were drafted in this summer’s draft and signed.
“I was never satisfied as a player and I’m not satisfied as a coach,” Pelfrey said in review of his first season. “We got better on the mound at the end of the year and we were at our best, but it was rough at the beginning of the season. Guys finally started believing in themselves and trusting themselves and things got better. So there was progress. But it’s not going to mean anything unless we keep taking steps forward.”
During a standout career for WSU, Pelfrey compiled a 33-7 record and 2.18 ERA, which still ranks second in program history. He also ranks second in strikeouts with 366. He was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year and earned first-team All-American status in 2005, as Pelfrey went 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA and 143 strikeouts.
Pelfrey was drafted No. 9 overall by the New York Mets in the 2005 MLB Draft. In total, Pelfrey appeared in 275 major-league games for the Mets (seven seasons), Minnesota Twins (three seasons), Detroit Tigers (one season) and Chicago White Sox (one season).