By Jeff Shearer
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
“They make each other so much better,” Auburn’s coach said. “They work together every day. Casey’s biggest influence is not a coach this year. I think it’s a player.”
“He pushes me. I push him,” Mize said. “It’s really helped both of us.”
Returning from elbow surgery after missing the 2016 season, Thompson starts Friday’s 2 p.m. season opener against George Washington. Mize, who follows Thompson in the rotation, will pitch Saturday at 11 a.m. in the first game of a doubleheader.
“It’s been awesome to have somebody to look up to.” Mize said. “I respect what Keegan does every day. I respect what he’s done in the past. There’s just something about him that makes you want to learn from him.”
A freshman All-American in 2014, Keegan Thompson boosts a 12-6 career record with a 2.49 ERA.
“Hopefully I can be that for somebody one day,” Mize said. “I just soak in everything I can because he’s very knowledgeable about the game, when it comes to pitch calling and reading hitters. I’m learning everything I can from him.”
Keegan Thompson, who started Auburn’s 2015 season opener, will be the first Auburn pitcher to make two Opening Day starts since Levale Speigner in 2002-03.
Mize, who led Auburn in strikeouts with 59 in 69 innings as a freshman in 2016, says the Tigers’ rotation is up for the challenge of leading a team that features 20 new players.
“I think starting pitching is what everybody expects us to be good at,” Mize said. “I think there is pressure that comes with that. We are held to a standard, and we’re going to be held to a standard all season long, because of the talent level that we have.”
“Electric is the word I use with Casey Mize,” Butch Thompson said. “I feel like he’s just continued to get better. A young, prideful, great arm who knows he can strike you out when he gets on a roll, especially with his slider.”
Auburn’s coach would like to see Mize become more efficient in his pitch count, allowing him to compile more innings.
“Trusting our stuff enough to try to end at-bats sooner,” said, Thompson, who hinted at the prospect of pairing his aces in the same game, if that’s what it takes to secure an SEC win.
“Are we good enough? Did we develop enough bullpen to keep them separated in starts? Because if not, we’ll put them together, if that’s our best chance to try to win a ballgame down the road,” he said.
Auburn plays its first 22 games at home, including the SEC opening series against Florida March 17-19. Starting with Friday’s opener, the Tigers play six games in six days.
“We’ll see our challenges, but we’ll know more about our team next Thursday after going through this process,” Thompson said. “We just need to attack this weekend, let the chips fall where they may. Give everybody an opportunity to participate. Show us where they’re at.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) February 15, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer