Feb. 6, 2007
"Junior Josh Donaldson ('06 stats - .276, 16 2B, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 7 pickoffs, 15 CS) will be our number one catcher. With a year of catching under his belt and a whole summer of catching in the Cape Cod League (where he was an All Star) as well, he has really turned himself into a prospect at that position and become a solid guy behind the plate. Ryan Jenkins (So., .200, 2B, 2 RBI) is an outstanding number two catcher. He really receives and throws well and had a good summer in addition to what he did for us last year. Dustin Spruill (Fr., Tuscaloosa, AL) is a switch-hitter and I really like the way he swings the bat. I feel really good about us behind the plate with three very capable guys.
"I think the pitching staff is the strength of our ball club. I like not only our arms, but also our pitchability. I think it starts with sophomore Evan Crawford (5-8, 4.35 ERA, 78.2 IP, 55 K). He led this team in virtually every pitching category a year ago as a true freshman.
"Our arms are not only very talented, but they are also fairly young and we can throw a lot of different looks at people. But when you are talking about a starting rotation, you are going to talk about Crawford, Bryan Woodall (So., 1-4, 5.44 ERA, 44.2 IP, 37 K, 9 BB), Paul Burnside (So., 2-3, 4.91 ERA, 44.0 IP, 31 K) and freshman Austin Hubbard (Birmingham, AL). Those guys are the four coming out of the fall that profile to be starters as we head into the season.
"Burnside is a power arm with a good slider. Woodall has settled into a three-quarter arm slot and he is getting heavy sink on his fastball and spinning two different breaking balls. All Austin Hubbard did was lead our team in strikeouts this fall. He throws two different breaking balls and a very good fastball. He has a lot of confidence in his two breaking balls and I like his mound presence and competitiveness.We have another power right hander in Taylor Thompson (Montgomery, AL) who mixes in a pretty good slider and has a feel for a change-up as well.
"You move to our bullpen and again I think the bullpen can be one of the strengths of our club. Luke Greinke (0-0, 3.76 ERA, 6 Svs, 26.1 IP, 17 K) led our team in saves a year ago as a true freshman. Johnny Thompson (Sr., 1-1, 2.95 ERA, 39.2 IP, 37 K) did a really nice job for us out of the bullpen a year ago. Chris Dennis (Sr., 3-7, 6.36 ERA, 63.2 IP, 39 K) returns to the bullpen where he had success early in his career and his arm is now healthy enough that he can pitch more than once a week. Justin Bristow was not able to pitch a year ago due to arm troubles out of high school, but he is now healthy and is a power arm that we really like. I am also excited about freshman Scott Shuman (Valdosta, GA), who is a low, John Madden-type, low three-quarter with arm-side sink and run who has been drafted before (2006 23rd-round pick - Milwaukee). Throw in the mix guys like Josh Blake (Jr., injured in '06), who had some quality innings for us two years ago, and we have 10 or 11 guys that I feel really good about.
"I really think the pitching staff will be the strength of this ball club. I think at any level of baseball, whether it is Little League or the Big Leagues, if you are strong on the mound then you really have a chance. I really like this team. I am excited to get started. I am ready to play and these guys are too.
"The schedule is good again by design. We play in the best conference in the country in the SEC and that's fun to be challenged week-in and week-out without any walk-over opponents. To prepare ourselves for that, we created another very good schedule. We have a great home-series visit from Arizona State, which is a preseason ranked club. We have one of the best teams in the Big Ten coming here in Purdue and we travel to the South Alabama tournament to take on Michigan State, Jacksonville, who was in a regional a year ago, and South Alabama. We play 32 games against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago. That's a good schedule. It keeps right in line with my philosophy, which is the best way to develop your team and your players is to play good people.