What Say You? Preview Edition

Both The Plainsman and AuburnSports.com released their first previews of the 2009 baseball team. PGCrossChecker also has a preview I recently stumbled across.

Of note from the Plainsman article is a note about Hunter Morris:

Morris will anchor the offense and defense from first base and will also give pitching a shot.

“I was recruited as a two-way player and I didn’t get a chance to do that last year,” Morris said. “When the staff came in, I told them ‘If you want to give me the opportunity to try it out on the mound, then let’s do it.’”

Well that's certainly interesting. Granted, in college baseball there are more and more players who were successful pitching and hitting. (Tim Hudson comes to mind for Auburn, as does Elon's do-everything Cory Harrilchak). Let's hope that if used, it's only during some mid-week series. Morris is a hitter first, pitcher second.

The Plainsman also touches upon one of the more interesting position battles; the starting pitcher:

Pawlowski, a pitching coach by nature, will use Morris, as well as senior Paul Burnside and sophomore Grant Dayton, to lead the Tigers from the mound.

Dayton, a left-handed pitcher, and Burnside, a right-handed pitcher, will battle it out early in the season for the starting position.

Burnside, who lost his junior season to injury, said he’s excited to get back to playing the game.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a while just to be back at 100 percent and to be able to compete and help Auburn win again,” Burnside said.

It's true that Burnside has pretty much been an afterthought. Last year, he never looked comfortable and has essentially had a full year to rehab, recover, and redeem himself.

There shouldn't be much of a "battle"; in my opinion. Dayton is your Day 1 guy. Then, if healthy, Burnside should stay that second day starter. Especially if you have a disastrous Friday. You have a dependable arm to bail you out the next day and try to salvage the season.

I think a better battle will be for that third slot. PGCrossChecker seems to think that Taylor Thompson has it wrapped up in their projected lineup:

1/Starter: Grant Dayton , So. (*7-2, 3.89, *81 IP/*79 SO).
2/Starter: Paul Burnside, Jr. (0-0, 11.81, 5 IP/4 SO)).
3/Starter: Taylor Thompson, Jr. (3-6, 6.28, 62 IP/51 SO).
Closer: Scott Shuman, Jr. (2-2, 6.07, 0 SV, 30 IP/18 SO).

I disagree. Thompson was statistically our worst pitcher last year. After Corey Luckie's performance last year, he's pretty much earned that third slot until he can lose it. Luckie started 14 games (tied for 1st on the team); pitched the second most innings (63.2), and had the only complete game. If not for that season-ending injury against Alabama, he would have one of the best freshman pitching seasons of any Auburn pitcher.

The Rivals article focuses mainly on the hitting but it does end with a very promising quote from Coach John Palowski:

"I think we are going to have to be a team that will create and manufacture runs," he said. "We will not be able to just sit there and hit the ball out of the ballpark. As much as we would like that to be our style and our plan, this league is so tough and we are going to have to get guys on and move them over.

"The biggest thing offensively is we are going to have to understand what the role is. I tell guys all the time, our offense is based on leaving your ego at the bat rack, going to the plate and doing whatever you can to move guys up, move guys over and get guys in and we are going to have to be a very unselfish offensive club."

The Season starts tomorrow.


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