Q&A On Fall Baseball With New AU Coach

Auburn baseball coach John Pawlowski discuses fall practice and getting ready for his first season with the Tigers.

Looking back on fall practice do you have a pretty good idea about your team heading into your first season?

"I do," Pawlowski says. "We certainly don't have the answers yet, but I'm proud of the kids. They came out and were ready to practice. With new coaches and a new system you never know how kids are going to react. They did fine. They made the adjustments necessary.

It went by too fast. In the old days you could practice as long as you want for as many days, but unfortunately we have rules we've got to go by. Team practice is over. Now we'll move into an individual phase. We'll keep instructing them and teaching them. I learned a lot about this club in the 34 practice days we had this fall."

It's a feeling out process for everyone involved when there is a coaching change. Is that what is good about the fall because it gives everyone a chance to get a feel for each other?

"Yes, because it's a two-way street," Pawlowski says. "The first week or so of practice we try not to jump in there too much. We try to watch and see what they can teach us and what they can't do and their abilities. Then we really get into the teaching part. It is a two-way street. We've learned a lot about them and they've learned a lot about our coaching staff and what the expectations are and how we're going to go about out business."

Pitching is always important in any level of baseball. What did you see out of the pitchers in fall practice?

"I was encouraged on several different fronts," Pawlowski says. "Paul Burnside has done a really good job for us. We stretched him out to almost five innings in the fall coming off the injury. That was really encouraging. Grant Dayton pitched really well the second half of the season last year.

"Now if we can get Taylor Thompson (bone spurs in elbow) healthy he should be ready to go. I was encouraged by that and also some of the other guys too like Jon Luke Jacobs, Austin Hubbard, Michael Hurst, those guys did some really neat things and I think they are going to help us.

"Unfortunately Luckie (Cory Luckie) is not going to be able to help us (Tommy John surgery), but when somebody goes down somebody else has to step up. We've got a lot of options. We just have to see who is going to be consistent. That's the whole thing about pitching is wanting to know, and hope as a coach you know what kind of performance you're going to get out of your guys."

Any positions in the field you're specifically looking at other than the obvious one at shortstop?

"I think our outfield, we've got some options there with Kevin Patterson, Brian Fletcher, Jamie Drinkard, Trent Mummey and Ross Smith," Pawlowski says. "All of them have done a good job at times during the fall. They are all very competitive and have all shown well at times. In the outfield we've got some options out there.

"We're not real deep on the infield," he adds. "Shortstop was a position that was kind of wide open going into the fall. We had some guys like Joseph Sanders and Chez McCann, but Casey McElroy has done a really good job for us there. He had a really good fall world series too. He's a freshman (Orlando-Boone HS), but that doesn't matter. The guys that are going to play are the guys that work hard and do the right things on and off the field. He's done a good job for us."

What are the goals between now and when you start practicing for the season?

"Right now the thing we're going to do is evaluate our arms," Pawlowski says. "Some of the guys that pitched in the summer, we'll start backing them off a little bit and getting them some rest and recovery time. The biggest aspects right now are getting in the weight room, this league and college baseball are about being big, strong and physical and we've got to get stronger. There is no doubt about that. Rich Levy does a great job with our guys.

"The other thing is conditioning and we'll continue with the individual work. That's really important because now we know what some of their strengths and weaknesses are. We can go to work and we've got some time to work on it, but the season will be here before you know it. I know these guys are anxious, as I am, to get started again."

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