Although the Husker bullpen has undergone a makeover after the departure of All-Big 12 closer Thom Ott, one big reason that pitching coach Rob Childress is optimistic about this spring is the return of set-up man Waylon Byers. The 5-11, 185-pounder from Milo, Iowa, missed most of the 2000 season with tendonitis, but was healthy last season and the results showed.
Byers, who has a fastball that runs in the upper 80s to go with a devastating slider, was one of the mainstays in the bullpen the second half of the season, taking over the left-handed set up role when Brian Rodaway moved into the rotation. He allowed only 25 percent of the runners he inherited to score and allowed one earned run in his last seven outings. During the fall, Byers continued to pitch well, making three appearances in the Red-White Series. He did not allow a run in 4.2 innings, while holding NU hitters to a .158 average.