OSU baseball: Jensen Elliott finding groove as he returns to his pitching roots
STILLWATER — After being sidelined for more than 13 months, Oklahoma State junior Jensen Elliott has spent nearly a year trying to figure out what kind of pitcher he was going to be in the aftermath of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
His velocity had increased. His body was different.
But then, a few weeks ago, it clicked.
Elliott needed to be the same type of pitcher he was before his elbow gave out.
He began to focus again on the sinker and changeup that helped him earn freshman All-America status.
Elliott will take the mound Friday night against Oklahoma at Tulsa’s ONEOK Field for his fourth start since his rebirth, taking the ball to start off a Bedlam series that has a lot on the line for a Cowboy team trying to earn regional host status.
Two of Elliott’s last three starts have resulted in 16 shutout innings, with just three hits allowed, against Texas and Oregon State, kickstarting series sweeps for the Cowboys in both cases.
In between was a rocky start at Texas Tech where Elliott’s command wasn’t as sharp, but a film session with pitching coach Rob Walton revealed an issue he was able to fix before going out to dominate a potent Oregon State lineup last week.
“I went back to my fundamentals, and not trying to do too much with my sinker, and it worked out,” said the 6-foot-6, 231-pound Elliott, who has a 4.24 earned-run average with a 6-3 record over 12 starts.
“Out of high school, I was a sinker/changeup guy, and I went back to that for the first time in a while before the Texas start.”
OSU coach Josh Holliday has seen Elliott focus in on the little details, relying more on location than velocity.
“His freshman year, he was a very advanced pitcher for his age,” Holliday said. “He did a lot with the ball in terms of movement and location and changing speeds. Then he missed the better part of two seasons with injury. Over that time, he got stronger, he got bigger, he started to throw the baseball harder.
“Now that he’s putting his game back together, he’s more complete. Now that he’s using his skills to move the ball and locate the ball, along with that added strength, I think he’s only gonna keep getting better.”
When he’s dialed in, Elliott works quickly, aggressively and confidently. The Texas and Oregon State games were both finished in roughly 2 1/2 hours, even with the Cowboys scoring 15 runs against Texas.
That’s the pitcher Holliday wants to hand the ball to on Friday night. But Elliott tries not to focus too much on that aspect of his position leading off the pitching rotation.
“It’s a big game. It’s the start of the weekend. It gets the momentum going if you have a good start,” he said. “I have to stay within myself. I can’t look ahead to the rest of the series or let the situation get too big.
“Obviously, this is Bedlam. Everybody knows it’s a big deal. But I know I have to focus on myself and doing what makes me good, it’ll help the team, ultimately.”