The Oregon Ducks are reportedly going to be without their top starting pitcher for the entirety of the 2024 season.
On Friday, Jared Mack of Duck Territory reported that Oregon ace Isaac Ayon is out for the year due to an elbow injury. The junior right-hander was expected to be the Ducks’ Friday night starter this spring.
Ayon missed the entire 2023 season, too, after undergoing an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) brace repair in November of 2022. The procedure serves as an alternative to Tommy John surgery.
He ended the 2022 season as Oregon’s Friday-night starter and went 4-4 with a 5.77 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings. Although he didn’t throw a single pitch last season, the Washington Nationals thought highly enough of Ayon to select him in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
He opted to return to Eugene for the 2024 season, though.
“I didn’t play. So, I wanted to be able to come back and do something for Oregon and (coach Mark Wasikowski); Waz has treated me very well since I’ve been here,” Ayon said during a January media availability. “So, I thought I could give back and come play, at least, and do something good for our team.”
According to coaches and teammates, Ayon appeared to be full-go during fall and winter practices and reached the upper-90’s with his fastball during scrimmages. Head coach Mark Wasikowski expressed optimism about Ayon’s offseason progress.
“I can tell you his pitching delivery is smoother; it’s less effort and there’s a lot of positives in what we’re seeing from a mechanics standpoint,” Wasikowski said in January. “I give credit to (pitching coach Blake Hawksworth) and Isaac for making the adjustments that he’s needed to make to be able to say that.”
Right-hander RJ Gordon, who also missed the 2023 season after undergoing a brace procedure, is expected to be in contention for a weekend rotation spot this season. Turner Spoljaric, Logan Mercado, Matthew Grabmann, Leo Uelman, Jackson Pace, and Gryason Grinsell all started key games during Oregon’s run to the Eugene Super Regional last year, and are all back this season.
Quinnipiac transfer Kevin Seitter could also be in contention for a rotation spot.
The Ducks are set to open their season on Feb. 16 with the 2024 Shriners Children’s College Showdown at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex. They will kick off the year against Oklahoma before facing Baylor on Feb. 17 and No. 18 Texas Tech on Feb. 18.