TitanCentral.com: I know you've been extremely busy and on the road recruiting so thanks for taking the time for another installment of Ask Dave. Lets start off talking about Chris Stringfellow. Obviously don't realize talant when they see it decause he went undrafted, but what's his status? Has he tried to sign on as a free agent or will he return next year?
Coach Dave Serrano: No, he'll return. We're surprised he didn't get an opportunity by being drafted but he'll just have to prove them all wrong and have a great senior season. As a pitching coach, to know Chris Stringfellow will be patrolling center field again for us, that's good for the pitching staff.
TitanCentral.com: It seems the only real question mark, as far as recruits possibly signing on with pro teams, is with Blake Hawksworth. What's the latest on him and do you still expect him to become a Titan?
Coach Dave Serrano: Right now it's an academic issue and we're still waiting word from the Clearing House to find out what direction we need to go. If we're lucky then he'll be eligible to start up in September. There's a couple different avenues which we may need to take for the first semester but we're doing everything we can to get this thing resolved and find out if he's going to get into school the first semester or not.
TitanCentral.com: Is there still a possibility of him signing or is he determined to go to school?
Coach Dave Serrano: There's an opportunity for him to sign but he and his family are very committed to hold up their commitment to us and they realize that going to school for at least three years is best for his maturity and progress.
TitanCentral.com: Talk to us about what the schedule is for the players up until practice begins on January 7th, 2002.
Coach Dave Serrano: We'll start school on Monday the 20th (August) and we don't meet as a team until the 24th. We'll let them get settled with their classes and all that and then they'll start conditioning and strength training. They won't start doing any baseball activity until Monday September 10th. And we'll do this until October 13th when we start official fall practice which lasts through October 27th.
During this time we'll play intrasquad games where pitchers don't throw more than two innings. Some guys won't throw at all in the scrimmages, especially guys who have logged a lot of innings during summer ball. Most of the guys coming in are healthy, Cordero and Merrell have had their time off, and those were our two biggest concerns. Or a guy like Randy Timchek, who is coming off Tommy John surgery from last year, won't be ready to go at full strength but I don't think there is any other pitcher who won't be able to compete for at least two innings each week.
TitanCentral.com: Well, it appears the Baseball America editor was incorrect in his suggestion that Titan head coach George Horton was a candidate for the ASU job. Was this just wishful thinking on his part?
Coach Dave Serrano: That "source", according to what I found out, was actually a friend of the program that had kind of indicated to the guy at Baseball America that he thought for sure Horton would be interested in that job if it was offered to him. To this day Arizona officials never had any contact with coach Horton.
TitanCentral.com: Interesting. Why would a so-called reputable magazine like Baseball America not even bother to follow up on that and perhaps even ask Horton himself?
Coach Dave Serrano: I don't know. I'm just not sure. From my standpoint, it made it a little more difficult because there are recruits that had seen that article and were asking questions and all that... like you said they should follow up on rumors to find out if it's true. That rumor was completely false. Not that coach Horton wouldn't be a very good person for that job but to quote someone as saying he was the top choice that's something that should have been followed up on.
TitanCentral.com: So what's the early prognosis on next year's squad?
Coach Dave Serrano: We're excited to get going even though the summer seemed like it was about two weeks long. It's going to be an interesting year, an uncertainty year. We think we have a chance to be good again. There's a lot of question marks but that's what is exciting about the job.
If the work ethic is anywhere close as to last year's team, I think we'll be fine. We've added some additions late plus with the guys we signed early, they're young, they're inexperienced but we think they're very talented. Our guys who played during the summer have had good summers and the recruits who we've seen play have had good summers.
I think the bottom line is how the team comes together which is always the most important factor. You can be the least talented but if you're a team and they all pull on the rope and play together you can beat anybody.
TitanCentral.com: Pitching going to be the strength again?
Coach Dave Serrano: I hear people say that and as the pitching coach we are going to be talented, be strong, but there's a lot of uncertainty. We're going to have to get out there in the fall and get guys to reach there potential. There's some good arms and there's some guys we think are going to be good.
Really, only two guys have performed beyond their ability and that's Chad Cordero and Darric Merrell But you have guys back like Wes Littleton, Travis Ingle, Charlie Zahari and Spider Martin who I think are going to play a key role on next year's team. Travis Esquibel, who started to pitch for us last year and then came up with an arm injury, I expect him to come back strong.
Randy Timchek was a top recruit two years ago and hurt his arm at the end of his season at El Camino College, then had the Tommy John surgery in January. He was a real good one before he got hurt and the way that surgery works now is some guys come back even stronger. When I recruited him he was throwing 92-94 MPH with a good slider and a good change so if we can get anything close to that ... he's kind of a sleeper in all this.
Again with the young guys we have coming in, the Dustin Millers, the Blake Hawksworths, the Jeff Housemans, the Jason Windsors, we feel like it is going to be strong group but with some uncertainty.
TitanCentral.com: How about David Bacani and the rest of the Titans doing so well in the Minors?
Coach Dave Serrano: It doesn't surprise be to see Kirk Saarloos and Brett Kay and David Bacani. I see Rouse's numbers are up, Guzman's doing well, Rifkin's got some power numbers. It was a pretty special group and not just as players but as people.
What David's doing out in pro ball is kind of justified. I think he was overshadowed after his junior year, luckily for us, and was still overshadowed after his senior year by being drafted in the 28th round. He might be packed in a body of 5'8" but he plays like he's a 6'5" guy. I talked to the scout who signed him and he said the Mets have nothing but rave reviews about him and what he is as a player.
TitanCentral.com: And how about the Big Leagues. Phil Nevin's having a monster year.
Coach Dave Serrano: Yeah, he's having a great year. Mike Lamb's doing well, Jeremy Giambi. Poor Matt Wise, it seems like he has the same hex he had at Fullerton as far as run support. Not that I run the Angel organization but I think Matt Wise would be a perfect middle guy for anyone Major League Baseball. He always gives them three or four good innings and I think that would be a great role for him. It was exciting to see Adam Johnson get his first win.
There's a lot of guys and I would guess there's probably more guys up in the Big Leagues from Cal State Fullerton than there has ever been at one time. And there's some guys knocking on the doors. Brandon Duckworth's doing phenomenal in Triple A, Luis Estrella is doing really well in Triple A. With the trade of Erasmo Ramirez to the Texas Rangers, it wouldn't surprise me if he's in the Big Leagues this September with how short they are in pitching.
It's exciting and it's a tribute to the program at Cal State Fullerton and to the players.
TitanCentral.com: They're talking 10 Million dollars for Nevin next year so how much of that comes back to the program?
Coach Dave Serrano: [laughs] But he's deserving it. If that's the way the market is, he's well-deserving of that. I don't have the relationship with Phil that coach Vanderhook or coach Horton have, but all I ever hear out of coach Horton's mouth is that Phil's as loyal a Titan as there is out there. There's never any time he shies away from returning a call and that's neat to know about him.
TitanCentral.com: An schedule changes?
Coach Dave Serrano: No, the schedules set. One thing which will happen this year that I think is a plus is our Friday night games are going to be at 7:00pm, our Saturday night games will start at 6:00pm and our Sunday afternoon games will be t 2:00pm. This is when it gets warmer. Early on we will be playing afternoon games on Saturday.
What's nice about that is you get out a little earlier on Saturday night. The team's on the field at 10:00am for a 1:00pm start, so now we won't have to be out on the field until 11:00am for a 2:00pm start.
TitanCentral.com: Lastly, and most importantly, how is your mom doing?
Coach Dave Serrano: She's doing fine. She's doing her treatments every Monday for three weeks in a row and then she has a week off. Her spirits are still great. It's a day to day thing but she's doing outstanding to be honest with you. She has her good days and her bad days but they're mostly good days. Part of her strength is her attitude and her spirit. She's the reason why we have so much strength because you can see it come off of her.