The last time University of Louisville baseball fans saw Joe Filomeno, the left-handed pitcher was emotionally leaving the NCAA Super Regional game with an injured arm.
Filomeno had pitched two-thirds of an inning in the game that sent U of L to the College World Series, a 2-1 win over Vanderbilt.
Now, after shutting it down because of a strained arm for a while in the offseason Filomeno is back and ready for the new season. He'll be the starting pitcher for the Cardinals' on opening day at noon Friday against West Virginia in Charleston, S.C.
"He's earned it," U of L coach Dan McDonnell said. "We've watched him grow and mature on and off the field. That emotional stuff we saw last year at Vandy stuck with people, it stuck with us as coaches. He literally had to rehab and work and fight his way back and he has been consistent and he has been solid.
"He's very competitive and very emotional, he just has to use it in the right way. We feel like he can get us started in the right way."
McDonnell said sophomore Kyle Funkhouser would start on Saturday against The Citadel and junior Jared Ruxer gets the Sunday start against Delaware. The Cardinals lost starters Chad Green and Jeff Thompson to the professional ranks.
"With Rux and Funk and myself, it could go either way," Filomeno said. "I have confidence in all of our guys. As the Friday guy, it's normally the quote, unquote best guy but I don't see myself as that because we are a team that is chocked full of good pitchers."
Filomeno has had 28 appearances out of the bullpen in his first two years at U of L, including 14 and a 1-0 record with 5.30 ERA as a sophomore. McDonnell said he was "one of our best" options at pitcher out of the bullpen by the postseason last year.
"It's a great feeling knowing the coaches have the confidence in throwing me on the weekend," he said. "But I know like in the past, I could lose it at any time. I would have total confidence in anybody else running out there on Friday.
"The way last season ended, I feel like the only way it could have been better was to win a World Series. My injury, it's baseball and it's life. It's just something you use as a stepping stone to use to step forward."
Filomeno, who picked up the win against Oklahoma State in the NCAAs, said his stuff is as good as it has been at this point.
"There's always room for improvement," he said. "So, I am going to give it my absolute best to improve on where it's at right now."
***U of L junior reliever Nick Burdi, who had 16 saves last season, was named to National Collegiate Baseball Writers' Association Preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List.