Gaspard Encouraged By Tide Pitching

Three weeks before Alabama's baseball team opens the 2010 season, new Crimson Tide Coach Mitch Gaspard has high hopes for an area of Bama baseball that he said hs been "the Achilles heel" the past few years.

"I'm encouraged with our pitching," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said Wednesday. "We realize and they realize they have been the Achilles heel the last couple of years. We've been good on offense. They (the pitchers) are going to have to help carry the load.

"In every outlook you read, the question (about Alabama) is pitching.

"We have told them, ‘We are going to be as good as you will take us.'"

Alabama opens the season Feb. 20 hosting South Alabama. Gaspard said that the non-conference schedule (which was mostly in place when he replaced Jim Wells as head coach last Sept. 1) is designed to be competitive. There are "non-conference" neutral site games against Georgia at Regions Park in Hoover and against Auburn at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery. Minnesota, a pre-season top 25 team, and Michigan will visit from the Big 10.

But it is the conference schedule that is a weekly "grind." Gaspard said that LSU, 2009 national champion, Ole Miss and Florida will rank as the top pre-season teams. "I think we can be in the mix," he said.

Alabama has good offense with returning stars second baseman Ross Wilson (a pre-season All-America), third baseman Jake Smith (also an All-America mention), shortstop Josh Rutledge, and 2009 Freshman All-America Taylor Dugas, who will move to center field.

Gaspard said that Chris Smelley, former South Carolina quarterback who transferred to Alabama to play baseball, has made great strides in recent weeks both as a catcher and as a hitter.

The story is pitching.

Gaspard said sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan has been the top man in competition to be a starting pitcher. Others he mentioned are right hander Jason Townsend, a junior college transfer; junior right hander Jimmy Nelson; left-hander Jonathan Smart, a junior college transfer from Shelton State; and freshman Taylor Wolfe.

The bullpen candidates include sophomore right hander Tyler White, senior left hander David Head, freshman left hander Matt Taylor, and Jake Smith, who moves in from third base to close.

"We think we have at least 10 guys who can throw and at least six who can throw significant innings," Gaspard said. "That's what we're trying to create and work out the roles. We want to use the staff and build the staff.

"It's important to build a pitching staff. You can't win with three starters and two relievers."

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