Around the Horn

Fall practice for FSU's baseball team ends next Friday. Here's a update on the Seminoles, who have been slowed by injuries to key starters and have had to dance around the construction at Dick Howser Stadium. Click here to also read about the progress of newcomers Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Blake Balkcom and Mark Sauls. "He's all that he was said to be. He has unbelievable arm strength. He has great power. He's a polished hitter," coach Mike Martin Jr. said of Martinez-Esteve.

Here are coach Mike Martin Jr.'s comments from Friday's interview with Jim Henry of TheTerritory.

"We like what we got. Obviously, depth is a concern. We have guys hurt right now – Stephen Drew (hamstring) is out, Blake Balkcom's (knee) is out, Tony Richie is out (chipped collarbone) and some other guys with some nagging injuries. But, all and all, it's so far, so good as far as the work ethic, the enthusiasm and guys willing to learn. We are pleased with our group. We have some guys who are ready to go. We just have to make sure that we stay healthy."

Talk about the injuries.

"Balkcom has a hyperextended knee. He's probably out for the whole fall. Stephen has a pulled hamstring. He's got it pretty good, so he's out for the whole fall. Tony Richie is out for the whole fall with a cracked collarbone. He took a foul tip there. Every time you look up, somebody has a bad hamstring. So, it's one of those things where we are patching it together. We have guys in positions right now that they probably won't be at once we get everybody back. Sometimes you have to look at it in a positive light. The guys who are out, there are other guys who can show what they do, which is going to make us better."

You have a huge roster, which is your largest. Talk about that.

"We have 36 guys on the roster, and that is about four more than we've ever had. I like it in a sense that we can play intrasquad games without a manager being in the outfield. It keeps the games flowing. It works out good from an offensive standpoint. We have good battles going on at each spot, and we all know that competition makes us all better. There's a sense of guys trying to win jobs and that helps out a lot. We were all worried about the numbers and so on and so forth, but yesterday we had one catcher and one manager in the outfield, so it kind of shows you that can't have too many. At 36 guys, believe it or not, there are a lot of teams that carry 50 ot 55. It's big for us but it's not big for most universities. You can only travel with 25. There will be situations from grades to unhappy – it will work itself out. We are not like a lot of universities to where it's unfair."

Talk about the return of Matt Lynch and the addition of highly-regarded recruits Eddy Martinez-Esteve and Mark Sauls.

"It's huge. I think the strike situation helped out a lot of colleges. I think it's going to be a good three years for college baseball, it's going to be highly competitive, because a lot of kids went to school. What it brings to us is hopefully a chain reaction. You have other recruits that see two third-rounders went to school and a junior that could have very easily signed went back to school. It might make some guys think twice about signing professionally. If you work hard and you continue to strive to get better you are going to have that money when you come out of college. What's the rush? It really helps. Hopefully, it will be a trickle-down thing where we will be able to land more high-profile, so to speak, recruits.

Talk about the newcomers.

"Eddy Martinez-Esteve is doing very well. He's all that he was said to be. He has unbelievable arm strength. He has great power. He's a polished hitter. He's going to be a very valuable to this team. Blake Balkcom, how in the world he has not been drafted I have no idea. He's going to be, I promise you that. We are going to make sure he gets his chance professionally. Mark Sauls, another third-round pick of Minnesota. He's all that he was said to be as well. Throws a heavy fastball, a good slider and a good curveball as well. He knows what he's doing. You combine that with a good nucleus of guys returning. We feel good."

Talk about your pitching staff. You have a number of quality arms, starting with Matt Lynch and Marc LaMacchia.

"We do. It will work itself out. We will probably go to a more pro type of running them in and out, situational guys, to keep guys sharp, keep ‘em happy as well, because we do have great depth on our pitching staff. Rhett James, another junior-college player, has been very impressive. The main thing is what the potential has been, it's impressive, but it doesn't mean a whole lot, especially right now. We've got to continue to get better and get the guys to understand there's room for improvement for us to win a national championship. That's the only way it can be."

You have some holes to fill, especially at third and in the outfield.

"It's going okay. Matt Sauls, a junior college player who is an outfielder, has been impressive. Hard-nosed. Reminds me a lot of Karl Jernigan. He doesn't have Karl's speed but he runs well. But he's one of those guys every college team needs. A competitive guy that can do the little things as well as bust one every now and again. Second base is wide open. We have guys competing over there. Third base is wide open, and we have guys competing over there. Obviously, the shortstop job isn't wide open, but we have to make sure he (Drew) stays healthy and leads our club. That's one thing that is kind of worrying us is the leadership. When you lose Bart (Ryan Barthelemy) that takes a big part out of this program. We don't have the leadership that Bart brought to the table. We are trying to get that through to our young guys. Somebody has got to step up, somebody has got to be a leader. Whether it's Tony Richie, Jarrod Brown, Stephen Drew, Tony McQuade, guys who have been in the program have to be leaders."

Talk about the coaching changes and how that has worked thus far.

"Chip has been out there. He hits some fungo and does his thing. He's basically building Dick Howser Stadium (laughing). Chip can do anything. He's big, big into the stadium and its construction. There aren't many architects who played baseball. There are certain things where it's great to have Chip there to be able to say that's not going to work. That sun is going to be setting right there and the guys won't be able to see in the cages. The mounds, the different things if you are not a baseball coach you don't understand and it's not a big deal to you. You want the bullpen mounds going the same way the mound on the field is, because when you start talking about wind, warming up in the wind and they get down there on the field and the win is behind them, it makes a difference. As far as Link (Jarrett), he's doing a great job. He brings a lot to the table. The guys are responding to him from an infield aspect. He's helping me out with hitters and is another arm who can throw BP and work with guys. It helps, no question. With recruiting, which I am involved in now, I have to have a guy like that who can help me out, who I feel comfortable with. It has worked out good. Nothing has really changed, that fact that I am at third base and Link is at first. The Boss is still the Boss (coach Mike Martin) and he knows what's going on and still gets involved. It's taught the same way he wants it to be taught."

Where are you at in terms of practice schedule.

"We have a big squad game Saturday. It's going to be a 7 ½ inning scrimmage. We will do different things, put people on base, work on bunt defenses, first and third defenses and on offense, as well. Next week we will practice and go all the way through the 25th. There still will be a Garnet & Gold game, but nobody can come see it because there's nowhere to sit. We will wrap it up on the 25th, before Notre Dame."

Talk about the stadium construction and how it has affected fall practice.

"We are losing a lot of baseballs (laughing). If you foul one off, it's over there in the mud. Unless you have a hard hat on, you can't go get it. It has been a pain. We told the guys before that it's going to be beautiful and you have to bear with us. But you can't hear. I am 10 feet from a guy and you are yelling to try to tell him something but you have jackhammers and cranes going and they can't hear you. There's a lot of people walking around with bullhorns so you can relay messages. We are still in the clubhouse. If we wanted to stay in the third base dugout, which we did, but in order to do the new facility we would have to move out. We probably would be dressing in the visitor football locker room. But since they are building the new one on the first-base side, we will just move over there."

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