Takeaways: Tech baseball begins practice in hopes of a return to Omaha
Texas Tech head baseball coach Tim Tadlock met with members of the local media to discuss his team beginning practice three weeks out from opening day...
-Coach Tadlock on seeing this team come together with a lot of new faces:
"It's exciting to see some new blood, see some guys - got a lot of guys with ability, and the schedule sets up really good for these guys to go out and compete. It's going to be a lot of fun watching them."
-On his pitching staff that returns quite a few veterans, specifically in the starting rotation:
"I think any time you return some guys like Davis (Martin), (Steven) Gingery, (Ryan) Shetter and all those guys, Parker (Mushinski) and (Jacob) Patterson, they've all thrown some innings and gone out in the summer and thrown well. Our guys face them every day, so they know they're tough to hit. Definitely it's better to have them than not have them."
"But, we like our club in all phases, and at the same time right now everybody is 0-0, and right now you've got to show up and play each day, and so far this group has been pretty good about bringing energy each day and playing the game the right way."
-Some of the new faces that Red Raider fans will get to see include true freshmen Josh Jung and John McMillon, both of whom will likely be position players and pitchers. Coach Tadlock on those two youngsters along with a few other newcomers in the pitching rotation:
"Hopefully in three or four months we're still talking about them being two way guys. The two you mentioned have really good stuff and definitely have the ability to help you in short stints or an inning or two at a time. John Henry Gonzales is a guy that's always pitched well, and there's other guys. Jake McDonald has a power sinker, can really throw it up there. I tell you what, there's a good group of freshmen there that I think even opened some of the sophomores' eyes. In the fall those guys had a lot of fun competing against each other a little bit. Hopefully they'll get a little bit of that going this spring, a little competition going amongst each other."
-Dylan Dusek, coming off Tommy Johns surgery, threw some at the beginning of last fall before being shut down when he didn't feel great after a few sessions. This spring, he's thrown well and remained healthy, which Tadlock seems to be encouraged about:
"So far this spring he's thrown and felt good after, so he's gonna be good for a bolt here and there. What you're hoping is that you can run him out there once a week either out of the bullpen or as a starter. He can give you a little length either way as far as that goes. He's such a competitor, can locate two or three pitches, and I'm just hoping he stays healthy week to week. If there's a young man that's gonna be diligent about his recovery process from week to week, he's definitely shown that."
-The head coach feels like his team's chemistry is starting to come together as well, which is supremely important considering the losses of leaders like Neslony, Gutierrez, Smith, and others:
"I tell ya, I think we've got a whole clubhouse full of leaders.I think all those guys come from backgrounds where they play good baseball. Not necessarily won, but they play good baseball. Kind of have a taste of it and have led teams from time to time. Who emerges as the leaders day to day here, I don't know if you really know that right now. We've seen some signs of it."
-At catcher, Tech has four options: True freshmen Michael Berglund and Clay Koelzer along with vets Matt Bernstein and Kholeton Sanchez. Tadlock on where he feels things are at catcher right now:
"I think we really like where we are behind the plate. To have two young guys back there and feel good about them going in is saying something about their ability and their makeup and all those things and also for their passion to play each and every day. Then you've got Matt Berstein and Kholeton Sanchez who both caught a little bit last year and both contributed a little bit," he said. "We really like where we are back there. Out of the four, I think you could start them on a lot of college baseball teams once or twice week. Now, if any of them can go every day of the week, we'll see. Time will tell on that."
-Coach Tadlock noted that they really liked what they saw from Koelzer and Berglund behind the plate in the fall, liked Hunter Hargrove at first, Josh Jung at third, Ryan Long in left field, and Connor Beck in right field. It sounds like each of those guys are ahead of the pack to earn starting jobs right now, with catcher being split.
-Interestingly, Tadlock also noted that if they wanted to use Jung on the mound late in a game, they would feel good about putting Michael Davis, Orlando Garcia, Brian Klein, and Grant Little at third if need be.
-Tadlock on his bullpen going into the spring, which will feature some guys who were role players a year ago and some new faces:
"I do think this year we have a chance to have a collection of guys, a group of guys do it on a Friday, a separate group of guys do it on a Saturday, and then maybe another group of guys do it on a Sunday,"he said. "There's a lot of guys that have shown the ability get college hitters out in short stints as long as you're putting them in positions to succeed. I'm not saying we know how to do that yet. We'll see."
-While it was fun just going to the College World Series back in 2014, Coach Tadlock admitted that his group last spring was there to win it, not just compete. They were legitimately disappointed with how things ended up, including those players that were there last season that are still on the team for 2017. Tadlock on that feeling and how you prepare your team to get back to Omaha:
"There was sincere disappointment in that locker room last year. It was a total different feel from 2014 where we were 'Hey, we got to Omaha for the first time. Great accomplishment.' Last year that group could really see what was in front of them, and they could see that they could compete with all those teams, knew the position they were in with the bracket we were in and all those things. Were also in position to win the first game. But, you think about it each and every day to put guys in a position to compete in the postseason. That's what the schedule is about. That's about playing good teams, going on the road. It puts you in a position to get into a regional and maybe host a regional. From there to maybe be a national seed. You put them in position with your schedule, and that's all you can ask for."