BERKELEY -- California starts the season on Feb. 17 against Cal Poly, but first, the Bears have to get back in shape. Friday's scrimmage was rough around the edges -- with seven runs, three errors and three hit batters in the first inning -- and a total of 18 hits in a 10-4 Blue win. It was not a day for pitching or for defense, with two miscommunications causing easy pop flies to drop in shallow left.
http://www.scout.com/mlb/story/1749753-california-pro-day-film-mark-canh... Head coach David Esquer said that he's not concerned ... yet.
"Not yet, not yet," Esquer said. "We played decently in the fall, but we just haven't been on the field enough because of the rains. We need to get acclimated to the speed of defense, but our team has to be predicated on pitching and defense. We'll find our offense, but it's got to start with pitching and defense."
However, despite defensive miscues, Cal may have found some certainty in at least one position, and the Bears are going back to a tried-and-true tactic: putting a shortstop there, a la Chris Paul in 2015 (Paul was in attendance for the post-scrimmage pro day).
After a fall fraught with concern over who would take over at first base, Andrew Vaughn -- a high school shortstop -- has emerged as a steady glove at first, and on Friday, he poked a tailing fastball from starter Tanner Dodson over the right side for a two-run double in the first. In the bottom of the third, Vaughn ripped a shot to right, but was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double by Max Flower. Vaughn added another double in the bottom of the sixth, and went 3-for-5 on the afternoon.
Vaughn has impressed his teammates, as well as the staff, and, Esquer said, "at this point," he's the Bears' starting first baseman.
"He looks like it, but there's going to be, as we start to look and fill out the open spots, there are some decisions to be made, and the first lineup may not be the last," Esquer said.
As for the pitching rotation, Cal will go with sophomore righty Tanner Dodson, freshman power arm Jared Horn and junior lefty Matt Ladrech. Dodson went 4.0 innings on Friday, striking out four, walking three, hitting two and allowing three runs. He also uncorked a wild pitch, but only allowed two hits.
"If I had to play right now, it'd be Dodson, and we're thinking Horn will get a chance to start right off the bat, and we'll see, left-handed with Ladrech, and in the mix, still, would be [Joey] Matulovich," Esquer said. Matulovich gave up four hits and four runs in his first inning of work, including two doubles and a home run.
"Two of the three" outfield spots are sewn up, Esquer said, including Jonah Davis (who slugged a two-run home run over the track stadium in right in the bottom of the first), and Jeffrey Mitchell. JuCo transfer Austen Swift made a diving snare in center for the gray team, early in the afternoon, but let another drop in the later innings. Flower is also in contention for that third spot, though Esquer is not above putting an infield bat out there.
Following Cal's seven-inning scrimmage, the Bears hosted many of their professional alumni, including the Minnesota Twins trio of Mitchell Kranson, Ryan Mason and Alex Schick; Atlanta Braves second-round pick Brett Cumberland; Colorado Rockies minor league pitcher and College World Series hero Matt Flemer; Chicago White Sox farmhand Blake Smith; San Francisco Giants Triple-A third baseman Mitch Delfino; Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien and first baseman Mark Canha; A's No. 2 pick Daulton Jefferies (who threw before the scrimmage) and both Knapp brothers -- Philadelphia Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp and Miami Marlins outfielder Aaron Knapp. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Tony Renda is also slated to attend later this evening. Unsigned free agent Brenden Farney was also in attendance, as the alums got to know the current squad before an under-the-lights batting practice session.