By JOEL COLEMAN
It has been said that when one door closes in life, that another one opens. Mississippi State’s Daniel Brown has found that old adage to be incredibly accurate.
The junior left-handed pitcher, who opened the season as part of MSU’s three-man weekend starting rotation, lost that responsibility after being plagued with inconsistency. Now, the Mount Vernon, Texas native who came to Mississippi State prior to the 2015 season as a transfer from Tyler (Texas) Junior College, is thriving as a reliever.
“I really like the middle relief role,” Brown said. “I really feel like my stuff excels as a middle reliever and I feel like I’ve found who I am. I’m really enjoying it.”
Before Brown fell into his current role as a primary relief option, he endured his bumps in the road as a starter. There were good moments for sure, like when the southpaw shut out then-10th-ranked Oregon over seven innings of work on March 13th. Brown also worked into the sixth inning without giving up a run two weeks prior to that in a win against UMass Lowell.
Those highlights were hindered by Brown’s inability to repeat them. Brown gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings of work against Oklahoma on March 6. Two weeks later at Vanderbilt, the Commodores scored five earned runs and eight total runs on Brown in just 2 2/3 innings pitched. Two weeks after that outing, Brown surrendered a pair of runs in a one-inning stint against Ole Miss and hasn’t started a game since.
“I didn’t throw as many strikes as I wanted to,” Brown said. “That hurts you as a starting pitcher. I guess I just wasn’t able to figure it out in that starting role, but in relief, I love coming out of the pen and just blowing it up for as long as I can. I find that really fun.”
Brown could have pouted. Losing a starting job could’ve sent him on a downward spiral. Instead, the small-in-stature lefty, who’s listed as 5-foot-10 and 185-pounds, proved his heart was much bigger as he lifted his chin and simply went back to work.
“What that means is he’s a great young man that had starts taken away from him and he took it the right way and just kept working,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said of Brown. “He kept getting better with (pitching coach Wes Johnson). He’s got great stuff. He’s just got to locate it and really challenge the strike zone. When he does that, he can really help us.”
Since being permanently removed from the starting rotation, Brown has been dominant. In his last 11 relief appearances, Brown has allowed just three runs, four walks and 13 hits in 18 2/3 innings pitched. He’s struck out 19 batters in that span and notched a win and a pair of saves.
Perhaps being reassigned to the bullpen was indeed a blessing in disguise. With a new role and the further development of his pitching repertoire, Brown has any swagger back that he may have lost earlier in the year.
“I got back and worked really hard with Coach Johnson,” Brown said. “We worked on my slider and made it a great pitch again. We worked really hard on that and I finally got it clicking. It has been a great pitch for me and allowed me to have a lot of confidence in myself.”
With Brown settled in the Bulldog bullpen now, MSU actually found the answers to a pair of early-season questions. Konnor Pilkington has emerged as State’s third starter and has posted the best earned run average (1.79) of any MSU pitcher that has thrown 18 innings or more. Brown now provides experience, leadership and a left-handed arm to the Bulldogs’ young batch of relievers.
It’s funny how things work out. Sometimes the best things in life indeed come in disguise.
“I wasn’t getting the job done,” Brown said of his time as a starter. “I didn’t look at (going to the bullpen) as a demotion. I just looked at it as a new opportunity to help our team win more baseball games.”