Before diving too far into the pitchers and catchers for the Tigers this season, here are a couple of updates CUTigers.com learned today:
One, freshman Jason Stolz will get the start at third in the first game of 2009 for the Tigers and Brad Miller will get the nod at short. As previously stated, it takes a lot for Jack Leggett to start two true freshmen on the left side of the infield, but both of these young guns have been extremely impressive. In fact, one Clemson assistant describes Miller as a budding superstar.
Two, John Nester will get the start behind home plate in game one and Phil Pohl will get the start in game two with game three to be decided.
Keep in mind first pitch is set for 4 PM Friday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium as the Tigers take on Charlotte.
Now here is what the Tigers will have on the mound:
PITCHERS: Trey Delk will be the Friday starter for the Tigers. The redshirt senior came out of nowhere last season to become the No. 1 starter the second half of the season. He can pinpoint his fastball, has a better than average curve and a very good change-up.
Delk threw 42.2 innings last season and posted a 2-1 record with an earn run average of 4.01. In his last seven appearances he struck out 24 and walked only six.
Freshman Chris Dwyer will be the Saturday starter. The 6-2, 200 pound lefty was a 36th round pick of the New York Yankees and listed as the No. 3 prospect in the state of Connecticut. He was also the first team All-New England quarterback passing for over 5,100 yards and 58 touchdowns to go along with 21 rushing touchdowns in his high school career. Obviously, Dwyer is a guy that has exceptional athleticism and on the diamond, he features a fastball that is in the low 90's, a great curve and the straight change. In an inter-squad game not to long ago he threw 5 2/3 perfect innings.
The No. 3 starter will be Graham Stoneburner. The redshirt sophomore showed flashes of brilliance his first year in a Tiger uniform posting a 6-5 record with a 5.55 era, and even threw a two-hit complete-game shutout against N.C. State. But the second half of the season was not a kind as the first half, so there is some concern. Keep in mind he was coming off of a torn ACL last season so that may have been a factor.
Look for left handed sophomores Casey Harmon and Craig Gullickson along with true freshman Kevin Brady, a righty, to battle it out of the mid-week starter rolls as the season progresses.
Like Dwyer, Brady has opened eyes with his maturity on the mound.
The mainstays in the bullpen this year will be Justin Sarratt, who had an unbelievable summer in the Coastal Plain League posting a 7-1 record with a 1.06 ERA, and Ryan Hinson, the No. 1 starter last season, and also Matt Vaughn, the closer last season.
Vaughn will miss the first four to six of weeks of the season due to some shoulder surgery, which means that Hinson could be the closer to start things off.
Other pitchers to keep an eye on will be freshman Scott Weisman, red-shirt freshman Kyle Deese, junior college transfer Tomas Cruz, lefty Will Lamb, and righties Alex Frederick and Josh Thrailkill. Josh might be the most interesting of the bunch. Coming out of high school in the Asheville, NC area he was thought to be a significant signee for the Tigers, but a leg injury his first season and a hip injury his second season have kept him on the shelf.
One other name to mention in the pen is Richard Mounce. Coach Leggett said recently he thought of red shirting Mounce this season, but because he can play first base, serve as the third catcher, swing a strong bat, and give some innings out of the pen, that just isn't going to happen.
CATCHER: Behind the plate three guys are battling for playing time in sophomore John Nester, freshman Phil Pohl and graduate student Adam Ward. Ward this fall hit better than .460 so the staff just could not figure a way to get him out. He is a guy that makes way more out of what he has and is a real team leader.
Meanwhile Nester, a sophomore, saw action in 30 games last season with seven of those coming via starts. He only had 39 at-bats, posting a .256 average with three home runs and five RBIs, but he has a strong arm and has shown considerable defensive improvement from last year.
True freshman Phil Pohl is a guy every Tiger fan is going to love as everything he does is with a purpose.
He never takes a moment off in practice and he has already started his own notebook on the Tiger pitching staff. As an example, when Clemson pitching coach Kyle Bunn had the staff write downs their own strengths and weaknesses, Pohl asked for a copy of it so he could enter it into his own journal.
Simply put, the battle between Nester and Pohl for starts behind the plate should be a good one.
So there it is, a look at each position for the Tigers. Believe me when I say that 2009 is going to be much better than 2008.
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