USC Gamecocks Baseball

Former Gamecock pitcher Sam Dyson finding success as Rangers’ closer

Texas’ Sam Dyson, a former USC standout, has converted 18-of-20 save opportunities since taking over the closer role earlier this season.
Texas’ Sam Dyson, a former USC standout, has converted 18-of-20 save opportunities since taking over the closer role earlier this season. USA TODAY

Texas has been a perfect fit for Sam Dyson.

Since coming to Texas on July 31, 2015, in a trade with the Miami Marlins, the former USC star is 3-3 with a 1.97 ERA, 61 strikeouts and 14 walks in 75 appearances.

Dyson’s arrival, coupled with fellow reliever Jake Diekman, transformed a beleaguered bullpen into one of the American League’s best by the end of 2015.

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” said Dyson, the Rangers’ closer, of his time in Arlington. “These guys were very welcoming from Day One. A very easy place to kind of be yourself, relax and go play the game. You know what you have to do to get prepared every day. They’re not going to do anything to get in the way of that; they’re here to help.”

In 2015, Dyson was a setup man after coming over from the National League. He filled a similar role earlier this season until Shawn Tolleson, Texas’ closer in 2015, stumbled and was demoted in mid-May. Second-year manager Jeff Banister, the 2015 AL Manager of the Year, selected Dyson to replace Tolleson.

The28-year-old right-hander hasn’t looked back.

This season, Dyson is 1-2 with a 2.59 ERA, 31 strikeouts, 10 walks and has converted 18 of 20 save opportunities.

“He’s been a huge shot in the arm for us,” Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “He’s just been dominant. He comes in every day and has fun. When he gets on the mound, you know you’ve got a bulldog and the ultimate competitor. It’s always fun to have a guy like that on your team and not have to face him, for one, but to get to play defense behind him and see him work.

“You can’t say enough about what he’s done since he’s been here.”

Dyson calls his three seasons in Columbia a “great time,” and naturally cites the Gamecocks’ winning the 2010 College World Series as his favorite memory. He’s reminded of his South Carolina roots on a rather regular basis when one of his fellow Gamecocks in the majors is in the opposing clubhouse, like Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who Dyson saw in Arlington in late June and again in Fenway Park the following week.

“Anytime you spend a significant amount of time together, you build friendships and relationships because you spend more time with them than just at the baseball field,” Dyson said.

Dyson’s transition to Texas was eased by someone in a similar situation at this time in 2015. Diekman also had been traded to Texas, coming over with ace starter Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies in a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline. Diekman and Dyson’s lockers were placed in adjoining spots in the clubhouse, and they almost immediately struck up a friendship.

“We had to find throwing partners, so we ended up throwing together,” Dyson said. “I didn’t know much about him the first day we met and he didn’t know much about me, but I think probably after the first 48 hours, we were pretty locked in on our ideas and very accepting of each other.”

And like any friendship, this one includes plenty of friendly banter at one another’s expense, Dyson said.

“Oh, it’s great. We hang out and joke around with each other all day long,” Dyson said. “There’s no meanness to it. We’re just trying to get under each other’s skin. That’s how we build our relationship. It’s just been really exciting to have someone who wants the best for you and I want the best for him.”