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Previewing the Washington Series with Jeff Bechtold

In order to get prepared for this weekend's Pac-10 series between the Beavers and the Huskies, I had a brief phone conversation with Washington's baseball media relations director, Jeff Bechtold. You can read Jeff's official release on the series here. On to the interview...

Jake Bertalotto, Building the Dam: We'll start off with the pitching staff. The Huskies are going with Jordan Merry tomorrow at Safeco. His last start was a few weeks ago against Arizona State... did he have an injury I don't know about, or did he just fall out of the rotation?

Jeff Bechtold, UW Athletic Department: He had some injury issues earlier in the year, but just some minor things. He struggled coming back with his command. Basically, as far as this week goes, the guy that has been pitching in his spot has struggled a bit in the last two times out, especially the last time out, so I guess they figured they'd give Merry, who is a senior, a shot at Safeco.

Jason Erickson is scheduled to start on Saturday. He seems like the most reliable guy on the staff, and he is this week's Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week.

He's a big part of the rotation. He missed some time in the fall, and therefore into the winter, because he broke his foot in the fall and therefore it took him a little bit of time to get going. But obviously, two shutouts in a row, it can't get too much better than that. A big part of the reason why we've been on a bit of a roll recently is the starting pitching, and he's a clearly the best of the bunch in that as far as the last few weeks go.

Freshman Andrew Kitterage gets his fifth start on Sunday. Has he just worked his way into a starting spot?

The coaches looked at him as a potential starter from the get-go, mostly by his profile coming out of high school. Earlier in the year he was just behind some of our veteran guys and was throwing in relief, and he's worked and earned a spot in the rotation. He's only had one or two outings where he wasn't at the least successful, if not dominant. He's had very few poor outings, whether it be in relief or as a starter. So he's earned himself a spot for that, and you might see him on Friday out of the bullpen.

I know you've said you've been getting some great starting pitching... talk a little bit about the bullpen. I know that guys like Geoff Brown and Brian Pearl are some of the regular guys who come on in relief.

It really hasn't been a very big bullpen recently, and that's probably a credit to the starting pitching more than anything else. But Brown's numbers accumulate in every game, I bet he's pitched in eight of the last ten games, just off the top of my head. He's a left hander, he throws hard... he can kind of act as a closer, or just come in for the eighth. Pearl is one of the hardest throwers in the country, on his best days he's throwing 95-96. He's pretty unflappable and unaffected, and when his stuff's good, there's not a lot better than that. And after that, I'd bet we'll see Haehl out of the bullpen this weekend as well.

The Huskies played a game earlier this season in Safeco against Arizona State, and played the Beavers there a few years ago. What does it take to play a game in Safeco, from a baseball operations standpoint?

It gets easier the more times you do it. The Mariners have been extremely helpful, they're as much a partner in this as they are like a landlord. They want to get it done, they want to get these games, and they make it pretty easy. We pretty much show up, dump our stuff in the locker room, and go out and play. There's really not a whole lot to it, other than our bench manager who spends a lot of time talking to the guys over at Safeco to make sure that everything is set up the way we need it to be. As far as the players and coaches are concerned, they just show up on the bus, get out of the bus, go in the locker room and play. As far as my end goes, they're very helpful in the media relations department over there as well. I show up, there's some extra things I need to carry, but I basically just plug in and go.

What's the general attitude in the locker room right now? I know the Huskies have been involved in a lot of sweeps this season on both ends, but coming off two straight sweeps against Oregon and USC, what's the feeling coming into the Oregon State series?

It seems like it took a little while to get things figured out this year, and I'm not saying they're totally figured out now, obviously we're still under .500, so it's not like anyone can claim that two sweeps in a row has totally changed the season around. Injuries have played a big role... Pierce Renkin returned from a broken finger and is now back in the order... also our staring third baseman. We still have a couple of guys out who haven't played all year that were expected too. At least they now have some hope... if things were going the way they were a couple of weeks ago it would be over by now. Nobody had made any pronouncements about what's going to happen the rest of the way, but at least the door has been opened for them a little bit. 

Big thanks to Jeff for taking the time out of his day to chat with us... here's to a great, competitive Pac-10 series this weekend. 

Remember-- tonight's game gets underway at 6:30 p.m. from Safeco Field. Tanner Robles will make the start for the Beavers, his sixth of the season and his first ever against the Washington Huskies. And again, senior right-hander Jorden Merry will get the start for the Huskies.

The open thread will go up later in the day, but here's the place to get ready for the big series. 

--Jake (