Bianucci Looking For Improvement In 2007

One week from opening day, sophomore slugger Mike Bianucci talks about the upcoming season and what to expect from the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.—Last year Mike Bianucci had the kind of season most could only dream about having as a freshman.

Despite battling through several nagging injuries, Bianucci led Auburn with a .359 batting average while adding eight home runs and 31 runs batted in.

Things should only be bigger and better for Bianucci and the Tigers this season as the sophomore received preseason All-American honors along with junior Josh Donaldson, but Bianucci says this year will likely be tougher than last year for a number of reasons.

"Last year I really wasn't thinking, I was just hitting," Bianucci says. "This year I'll probably have to think a little more. Last year I just basically went to the plate and swung. You could make a couple of mistakes, but you didn't worry about it because you were young. Now there is more pressure because I'm older."

Hitting is something that comes naturally to Bianucci. Although he puts time and effort into his craft and was an accomplished hitter when he got to campus, Bianucci knows that things will be different as a sophomore. Not only will teams now know about his talent at the plate, but they'll also have a chance to get a more detailed scouting report on the big slugger. Bianucci says that already this fall his own team has given him a taste of what to expect this season.

"It's a lot different," Bianucci says. "This fall I struggled a lot more because they are pitching me a little bit different. Even my own team is pitching me different than they did in the fall. I'm getting a lot of off speed early in the counts and I'm having to get good pitches. I'm having to hit a pitcher's pitch right now, but that means I'll have to be more patient this year than last year. Hopefully, it shouldn't be a problem and with Don (Donaldson) having the summer he had they'll think twice at what they throw me to get to him or him to get to me."

Bianucci is looking for improved offensive numbers in 2007.

At the plate isn't the only adjustment for Bianucci as he has also been forced to make an adjustment in the field moving from third base to left field. Knowing that his talents were more suited for the outfield, Bianucci spent a great deal of time becoming more limber in order to play the new position. He says that while he feels good it has been a tough transition because it's so different than anything he's done.

"The toughest part for me was getting my footwork down," Bianucci says. "I'm not getting turned around on balls any more where before I was catching balls on the run and not getting behind them. The footwork is definitely the biggest thing.

"It was kind of rocky at first," he adds. "I had never played the outfield before so I had to work on my footwork getting used to it. It's come a long way since the beginning and coach (Karl) Nonemaker has worked really hard with me out there. It has paid off and I think it's going to be good."

Bianucci's move to the outfield is just one of the changes Auburn fans will see for this year's Tiger team. With more talent in the field and on the mound the team should see an improvement from last year. Bianucci says that the pitching could be the biggest reason for a better season in 2007 because having quality pitching not only helps you win games during the season, but also prepares you for the coming year during intrasquad games before the season begins.

"It prepares us well for what is going to happen in the SEC," Bianucci says. "The SEC is arguably the best conference in the country and the pitching is tough. There are no easy guys out there. You are seeing guys throw slow and the next guy throws hard. They mix it up well. It's tough."

With veterans Bruce Edwards, Russell Dixon and Andy Bennett expected to bring some pop to the lineup along with Bianucci and Donaldson, the Tigers appear to finally have the offensive firepower to challenge in the tough Western Division of the SEC. Bianucci says that with the veterans and several newcomers that have shown promise he believes Auburn is ready to take a step forward towards their goal of making both the SEC and NCAA Tournament in 2007.

"I feel great about our lineup," Bianucci says. "I think we'll have three or four guys easily hit over .300 this year. There could be four or five. All the way through our lineup I don't see a weak spot. Our pitchers will tell you there's no easy outs in our lineup. It's ridiculous how our hitting coaches have turned everyone around. We've got a lot of guys who can hit this year."

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