Managing a baseball team has its easy days and its hard ones. Sometimes everything seems to fall into place. Pitchers are hitting their spots, hitters are hitting and fielders are making plays.

But the Oklahoma coaching staff is in an interesting position considering how to use sophomore Ryan Mottern. He has the unique ability to figure in all three phases.

“When I use him as a (designated hitter) and they come with a right-hander, I can’t take him out if I want to use him as a closer,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said.

“There’s a lot more pressure to keep him in the game. It’s harder to come out of the bullpen if you’re a two-way guy. There’s more managing and more thought process on how you’re going to work things during the game.”

Poor Golloway.

He’s the one stuck figuring out how to use a guy who’s hitting at a team-high .405 and carrying a 3.31 earned-run average.

Any decision Golloway makes has a pretty good chance of working out.

Last Saturday against Baylor, Mottern went 2-for-4 with four RBIs while starting in left field.

After hitting a seventh-inning home run, he jogged into the dugout, picked up his glove and headed to the bullpen to start warming up. He wound up pitching the final inning of the 5-2 victory over the Bears.

His skills would seem to have pitching coach Fred Corral and hitting coach Tim Tadlock going through a tug-of-war in the dugout.

It isn’t happened yet.

“He’s just a very talented player,” Tadlock said. “Guys like that who can pitch, they have to be pretty natural hitters. He’s a guy that can hit so well that it allows him to do his pitching work.”

Mottern’s talent was apparent when he arrived from Palestine, Texas, in the fall of 2003. Former coach Larry Cochell gushed over his two-way ability.

He had modest success his freshman year. He made 19 appearances, but didn’t factor in any decisions. He also hit .256.

But last season ended early.

During a March 22 game against TCU, his fingers went numb while out on the mound. Doctors found a problem with the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. Surgery was needed and he wound up redshirting.

“It was really hard to watch,” Mottern said. “I know I could have helped out in some way at the end of the season. It was just something I had to deal with.”

Mottern, a high school teammate of Sooner running back Adrian Peterson, has a reputation as a fierce competitor.

“He always had that bulldog mentality,” Peterson said. “He was a great fullback, because he always had that mentality that he was going to do whatever he had to do.”

But becoming a spectator can also drive motivation. Since coming back this spring, Mottern’s been on a tear. The Sooners were using him as a midweek starting pitcher earlier in the season, but he’s been moved to the closer role.

“The biggest things is he’s found the strike zone and he’s attacking the strike zone,” Corral said. “His velocity is back and he’s hitting 94 (miles per hour) at times.”

He still doesn’t have a save, but OU’s hoping that will change soon. The Sooners (20-7, 2-1 Big 12) open a three-game series against defending-national-champion Texas (19-10, 4-1) at 7 tonight.

Mottern could see time on the mound, in left field and at the plate in all three games. Asked for a preference, he shrugged.

“I just go out there and have fun whether it be throwing or hitting,” Mottern said. “I’m going to do whatever is called for.”


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