Scrimmage Report: 2/10

The Gators went through their final extended scrimmage of the preseason on Sunday night. After practicing mostly during the day, Florida pushed it back to a night scrimmage so the team could get used to the lights. Five pitchers still competing for important roles in the starting rotation and the bullpen were on the mound Sunday.

Justin Shafter and Tucker Simpson started the game. Both have drawn plenty of praise throughout the offseason.

Shafer has especially been impressive. He didn't pitch much as a freshman, but that was mostly because of the role he had to play in the outfield. Now in his second year of college baseball, he will hit and pitch. On the mound, Shafer is 87-89 with his fastball, adding a changeup and slider. The slider is really good. He fell behind freshman Harrison Bader in a 2-1 count on Sunday and came back to strike him out swinging on back-to-back sliders out of the zone.

He moved the fastball to both sides of the plate and pounded the strike zone with all three pitches. The comparison I heard when asking about him was Hudson Randall. He didn't have the vast repertoire that Randall used, but he just pounds the strike zone and gets weak contact. Shafer allowed just two hits and one walk in five innings of work.

Simpson was a lot of the same — just better velocity. He was low 90s like usual. The curveball wasn't as sharp at times earlier this year, but he still threw it for outs at big moments. He struck out Zack Powers after throwing a curveball over the heart of plate to make it a 1-2 count and following it up with a fastball up and out of the zone. He can change hitters' eye level with the curveball, and then when a high fastball comes out on the next pitch, it looks like the same curveball again. They'll start their swings and try to stop too late after realizing it's a fastball. It's a big benefit of Simpson's curveball.

The freshman's changeup is his best of the two off-speed pitches. He can locate it, and there's a lot of depth on it to get swings and misses. Simpson allowed one hit and two walks in four innings of work while striking out three.

Don't be surprised if Shafer and Simpson are both given important roles on this pitching staff.

Left-hander Daniel Gibson had five scouts in attendance to watch him on Sunday. He showcased the electric fastball that brought them there. One thing that Gibson has always been able to do well is throw the fastball to the inside part of the plate on both sides. He created weak contact by getting inside lefties and righties with the fastball, sitting 93-94 mph. He gave up one hit in three innings, and it was when freshman shortstop Richie Martin got jammed and beat a ball into the dirt in front of the plate but beat it out for an infield hit.

Left-hander Corey Stump faced mostly right-handers, but when he went up against a lefty, they usually had a hard time seeing the ball. Lefty Taylor Ratliff, who has been hard for any pitcher to get out this spring, got jammed by Stump and hit a comebacker to the mound. Christian Dicks, another left-hander, struck out chasing a breaking ball that dove away from him. This was about how it went for the lefties Stump faced, except for a leadoff triple by Ratliff in Stump's third inning.

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was yelling at Stump against lefties to trust his stuff and the matchup advantage, and Stump was usually pounding the strike zone in those situations.

After a dominant spring, Johnny Magliozzi had his worst outing in a while on Sunday. He only worked one inning, loading the bases in the first three hitters faced with a single, hit by pitch and walk. He got a sacrifice fly after that before another hit by pitch loaded the bases. Magliozzi locked in after this, striking out Bader on a 3-2 fastball that was painted perfectly over the inside part of the plate. He then got freshman Kevin Stypulkowski to fly out to center field to end the threat.

It's not ideal that he got into the trouble that he did, but the way Magliozzi pitched with runners on base is a good sign. He could be someone that fits into the closer's role for Florida. I would still be surprised if Magliozzi wasn't an important part of this pitching staff. One outing doesn't outnumber his strong preseason.

This was also the best I've seen freshman Jason Carmichael this spring. Earlier this offseason, he was timid with his fastball and fell behind hitters. That wasn't the case on Sunday. The lightest player on the team at 160 pounds, Carmichael was pounding the strike zone and actually flashed a good curveball. He fell behind Taylor Gushue 2-1 and spotted the curveball perfectly on the inner half back-to-back times to record the strike out.

There wasn't much offense to report on Sunday. After six innings, it was 1-1 with three combined hits.

Richie Martin was the offensive highlight yet again. He smoked a line drive over the shortstop head against Simpson, and turned what looked like a single into an easy double. Two pitches later, Cory Reid tapped a ground ball to shortstop. Martin was off after contact and rounding third base when fill in shortstop Zack Powers botched a one-handed attempt, allowing the ball to get away from him. Once Martin read it, he continued home and scored easily. His speed translates and will impact the game.

One other quick example to show what an intelligent player he is — after a sacrifice fly that Gibson allowed, the players in the field wanted to appeal to see if the runner at third base left early. While Gibson stepped on the mound and threw to third for the appeal, Martin was already standing behind third base to back up the play, regardless of how easy and routine the throw was. It's a small example, but the freshman is an advanced player for his age.

While Shafer was good on the mound, he had a down scrimmage at the plate. Simpson started his outing by walking Cody Dent on four pitches. Shafer followed with an at bat and flew out on the first pitch. He hit for a good average last year, but showing improved plate discipline as a sophomore would go a long way to him being more productive in 2013.


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