Baseball Notebook: Some Starters Undecided

The competition during fall practice was focused on two starting positions. Returning seven starters in the field and all three weekend starting pitchers is a main reason the Gators will be highly ranked entering the 2012 season, but there are still questions to be answered. The battles to start at second base and third base will spill into spring practice.

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said the team has made progress to figuring out who will start at the two positions, but there won't be any definitive decisions made until February. That allows the competition to continue through winter break, but it also keeps every player motivated to win the job.

At third base, sophomore Zack Powers and junior Cody Dent are the returning players fighting for the job. Powers was given a chance to be the every day starter at third last season, but he tore his meniscus at Georgia soon after and that plagued him throughout the season. Dent took hold of the job to end last year, proving the best glove at the position and a solid eye at the plate to work walks.

Freshmen Josh Tobias, Casey Turgeon and Sean Trent will also be heavily involved in the third base battle.

It's a unique situation because Dent, Tobias and Turgeon are also involved with the second base job. Sophomore Alex Freedman and senior Jeff Moyer will also get a look at second base.

Part of the reason for the delay to name starters is because of Turgeon. The freshman was injured in a scooter accident September 27th and suffered a head injury. He was held out of the remainder of fall practice because the coaches didn't see a need to rush it.

"He was certainly in the mix before the fall started," O'Sullivan said. "We'll let things settle. Ultimately, we'll hold judgment until the beginning of February before we start to lock some things in."

Despite not being able to practice, Turgeon was still in the dugout for every practice and around the team. O'Sullivan didn't expect the injury to serve as a setback. They would've liked for him to get some at-bats and become accustomed to college baseball in the fall, but the head coach thinks he'll be involved in both position battles.

"From what I'm being told, I think he'll be healthy and jump right back in," O'Sullivan said. "We've just been very cautious this fall. Anytime you have a head injury, you have to take things slow and make sure he gets his academics in line. The fall was coming toward the tail end of it, so we didn't want to push him back to quick. I feel very good with where we're at with him, but there's no reason to rush right now."

GIBSON MORE COMFORTABLE: Daniel Gibson learned a lot during his freshman year. His 13.06 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched last season showed there was a lot that needed to be figured out. That number was inflated by some bad outings early in the season, and a midseason talk with a teammate turned that around.

Gibson became close with junior Nick Maronde, who was taken by the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels in the third round of last year's MLB Draft. Maronde had a similar story. The fellow left-hander struggled through the 2010 season after coming into the year with high expectations. By the end of the season, Maronde's struggles found him alone in the bullpen and not seeing innings on the mound.

He regrouped in 2011 to post a 2.09 ERA and strike out 55 hitters in 43 innings. Maronde's message for Gibson was to slow things down and simplify it all, whether it was mechanics or the mental side of pitching.

"With pitching, the more you have in your head, the worse you're going to be," Gibson said. "You simplify things and worry about pounding the strike zone, and you'll be successful."

This summer, Gibson pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League, the top summer baseball league in the country. He played on the same team with Florida pitcher Brian Johnson and catcher Mike Zunino, allowing the two to build more chemistry.

Gibson spent the summer focusing on his changeup. He was a two-pitch pitcher last season, using just his fastball and curveball. With the entire rotation coming back this season, Gibson will likely be used as a reliever, but he wanted that third pitch in case he gets a shot during midweek games this year.

"It's real important," Gibson said. "Sully always says if you want to be a starter, you have to throw three pitches for strikes. I've looked at guys like Brian (Johnson) and (Hudson Randall) who have four pitches. I just want to stick with three and then I'll start working on a slider."

ESPNU SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED: For the second straight year, ESPNU will televise a Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week. The Gators will be involved in three.

The schedule begins on March 22 when Florida travels to South Carolina for a rematch of last season's national championship. Two weeks later, ESPNU will televise the Thursday matchup as the Gators host LSU. The final game for Florida in the series will come May 3 at Kentucky.

Fightin Gators Top Stories