Scrimmage Report: 2/2

The Gators put three important pitchers on the mound during Saturday's scrimmage to continue preparing for the season opener against Duke on February 15.

Keenan Kish looked dominant in his first two innings of work. He forced hitters to beat the ball straight into the ground and got multiple ground ball outs from it. The only hits he allowed in the first two innings were a two-out single to Justin Shafer in the first inning and a two-out double to Cody Fulton in the second.

His slider looked really good. It's easily the best offspeed pitch he has. He showed some work on the changeup, but it wasn't overwhelming. He just needs it to be good enough to get by as a starting pitcher after how good his fastball and slider have been, and that looked to be the case on Saturday.

His command wasn't as sharp during his third and final inning of work. He got hit pretty hard and gave up three runs in the frame. The Gators continue to stretch him out in preparation of possibly winning the third starter job this season.

Aaron Rhodes had the opposite experience of Kish. His first inning wasn't good, allowing four runs and getting hit hard. After that, he settled in and put together back-to-back shutout innings.

He has a similar repertoire to Kish. Everything Rhodes throws has sink to it and should produce plenty of ground balls when he's on. Rhodes can be a very valuable reliever for the Gators. He looked poised to do that as a freshman in 2012 before suffering a preseason injury and missing the entire season. He enters 2013 as a redshirt freshman.

Ryan Harris put together his second straight strong outing of the spring. After going through a lackluster fall, Harris seems to be putting it together at the right time. He had a dominant summer in the Northwoods League and is a candidate to close for the Gators.

He has a mid-90s fastball and a good breaking ball. Harris was on again on Saturday, completing his two-inning stint without allowing a run. If he puts it together for his sophomore season, the Gators will have plenty of options in the back of the bullpen. The issue is getting them more experience in game settings, and that will start on February 15.

Fulton had two hits off Kish, doubling into the left-center gap and then lining a double down the third base line. He was a late addition to the 2012 recruiting class, but he had a big day on Saturday.

It's more of the same from Justin Shafer and Casey Turgeon. Shafer had two hits off Kish and continues to swing the bat well this spring. He's a perfect fit to hit in the third spot of the Florida batting order. Turgeon doesn't do much flashy at the plate, but he continues to hit balls on the barrel.

Richie Martin stole the show in the field. Three outs into the scrimmage, he had already made two outstanding plays. He made the first one on a backhanded play at shortstop and the second one on a sliding play up the middle where he stopped the ball, picked it up and threw the runner out at first. He's going to hit leadoff for the Gators, but his biggest impact will come in the field.

Former Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana was a strong defensive player because of his instincts. He didn't have blazing speed, but he knew how to position himself on defense and always seemed to be in the right place. Based on athleticism, Martin is the better of the two. He's faster on the bases and in the field, but it's hard to compare him to the stability Fontana gave the Gators over the last three years. Martin does have the talent to make an immediate impact.

Harrison Bader continues to impress. He gets good reads in the outfield in left field or center field and is surprisingly strong. His swing reminds me a lot of former Florida outfielder Bryson Smith, but Bader is faster. He brings an intriguing speed-power combination. He's not going to hit double-digit home runs this year, and maybe not ever in his career, but he'll hit a lot of doubles.


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