Pawlowski, Tigers Eager to Scrimmage

New baseball coach John Pawlowski's Tigers will have their first fall scrimmages this weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--The transition of the Auburn baseball program into the John Pawlowski Era moves into higher gear this week with the start of full squad fall practices.

"I think the guys have been chomping at the bit to get out here and start," Pawlowski tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.

"There is a curve we are going through right now with new coaches and new faces on the team," he says. "Once we get settled in, I think everybody will be more at ease.

"Right now, everybody is on pins and needles not knowing which way to go or how things will work, but once they find out how the system works I think things will begin to start moving along."

Pawlowski was hired by Auburn to take over the program after Tommy Slater was fired when the Tigers failed to make postseason play last spring. A coach who built College of Charleston into a power, Pawlowski is a former Major League pitcher who says he is excited about seeing the Tigers play scrimmage games this weekend.

On Tuesday the Tigers had their first full squad workouts, one of 34 they will have over a 45-day period this fall.

"We are starting to get a feel for our players because with the individual work we have been able to do you are able to work with four guys and really figure out what they can do," Pawlowski says. "Obviously, we haven't had the chance to compete against each other, but overall I think we are trying to assess what we have--our needs and where we need to go from there.

John Pawlowski

"The individual work is great because you can really kind of lock in to try to help guys develop and get better," he adds.

One of the team's top players, 2008 Freshman All-American Hunter Morris, had to watch the opening full squad workout on Tuesday due to a hand injury.

"He went up to Birmingham to see a hand specialist," Pawlowski says. "Right now he plans to take a couple of weeks off and he is going to be fine."

Morris hit .351 last spring and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He also played on the Team USA squad this summer that won the world championship tournament.

"He really doesn't know how he did it," Pawlowski says of the injury. "It is just one of those things. If an injury is going to happen, you would rather see it happen now in the fall where they have time to get healthy for the spring."

Auburn has had health issues with its pitchers in recent years and getting that group well is a high priority. There is good and not so good news on that front.

Paul Burnside is hoping to make a comeback this year on the mound for the Tigers.

"Paul Burnside is doing very well," Pawlowski says. "That is going to be a huge boost if he is ready to go. Cory Luckie, unfortunately, has not been 100 percent yet. He has had a couple of visits to the the doctor.

"Taylor Thompson has a little issue, just some soreness that I think it is going to work out. Overall, I think we are making progress. The biggest thing is we have to find a way to develop those guys and getting them developing quickly."

Another priority this fall will be finding a shortstop to take over for Matt Hall. Junior Joseph Sanders, sophomore David Cunningham, redshirt freshman Chezz McCann and freshman Casey McElroy will be competing for that assignment.

"The biggest question mark we have now is who is going to be playing shortstop for us," Pawlowski says. "Last year Matt Hall did a great job and he signed to play pro so that is a big void for us, but when you have a successful team somebody is going to step up you weren't counting on or somebody you were counting on gets better."

Weekday practices in fall drills will feature a lot of teaching and the weekends will be used to play games. "On the weekends we will hopefully get to the point where we can have scrimmages and see where we are at," Pawlowski says.

The first three scrimmages of the fall are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. All are open to fans who want to watch the action at Plainsman Park.

"I think the biggest thing for me is trying to find out who fits where--trying to put the pieces of the puzzle in place," the coach says. "Before, if you were short in an area, you could go out and get a transfer to come in at mid-year, but with the new NCAA rules that has really changed. We will play with the players we have on campus right now."

"Offensively, we have some guys who are back who had really good years last season and over the summer," Pawlowski adds. "I think that bodes well for the offense. With the pitching staff, I think there is some talent on the team. They need to just continue to get better."

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