Scrimmage observations: 1/29

A few Florida players showed their offseason improvement on Thursday.

I wrote a story about Richie Martin yesterday, and in it was a note that he gained 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason but still feels as athletic as before. He showed off the added strength on Thursday, starting the scrimmage with a home run to left field off Eric Hanhold. In his next at-bat, he stayed on an offspeed pitch and lined it into right field for a single, adding a stolen base a few pitches later. It was a really good offensive day for the Florida shortstop.

I tried to get a good look at Pete Alonso in right field on Tuesday, but he only had a few chances and handled them well. On Thursday, Alonso actually made a diving catch after coming in and towards the right field line before laying out and making the catch. It wasn’t graceful by any means, but he got there and made the play. That seems to be how the Florida coaching staff is describing his play out there -- it’s not flashy, but he gets to balls he’s supposed to and doesn’t make mistakes.

Alonso’s catch was impressive, but the defensive highlight came from second baseman Dalton Guthrie. Late in the scrimmage, the freshman went to his left and deep in the hole to field a ground ball and throw across his body to first base to get the out and save a run. It’s hard to find someone around the program that hasn’t raved about the freshman, and it was easy to see why on Thursday.

On the mound, A.J. Puk had the best day. He allowed just one hit, a single to freshman catcher Mark Kolosvary, and didn’t want anyone while recording two strikeouts. Seven of the nine outs he recorded were on strikeouts or ground balls. When he throws strikes, Thursday is what it looks like. He’s tough for left-handers to pick up, and he produces plenty of ground balls when he’s right.

Puk did nothing to hurt his current spot as the team’s Saturday starter heading into the year. Hanhold pitched on Thursday trying to make a statement to lock up the Sunday starter job, but it didn’t happen. Hanhold allowed five hits and one walk in three innings of work. He gave up three runs and didn’t miss the barrel of many bats.

Danny Young and Aaron Rhodes finished out the scrimmage. Young started strong and missed a lot of bats, but his command wasn’t as sharp in his second inning of work. He’ll be a valuable piece for the Florida pitching staff because he can start, be a middle reliever or even pitch late innings. Rhodes wasn’t sharp at all. He needs to stay healthy this year to have a big role with this deep pitching staff.

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