2008 GoJackets.com Baseball Preview - Miami

With February 22nd just around the corner, it's time once again to take a look at the 2008 ACC race. The preseason polls are out and they're all suggesting a six team race for the ACC title and a chance to host regional play in the postseason. North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia, and Georgia Tech are the six teams we will take a look at in this year's review.

Heading into the 2008 season, Jim Morris' Miami Hurricanes will feature what is arguably one the best hitting lineups in the country. The Canes are also one of the co-favorites to take the ACC crown this year. Their lineup features four Preseason All-Americans in Yonder Alonso, Dennis Raben, Blake Tekotte, and Jemile Weeks. The Canes will be in Atlanta April 11-13 for a three game ACC series.

INFIELD - The Canes return the entire infield with the exception of Roger Tomas. Tomas began last year as the starting shortstop, filled in for the injured Weeks at second and ended the year as the team DH. Roger ended the season with a .337 batting average. Yonder Alonso returns as the starting first baseman and the most feared hitter in the lineup and perhaps the ACC. Yonder hit .376 with 18 HRs and a league leading 74 RBIs. Jemile Weeks returns at second after missing part of last season with an injury. He hit .298 and led the ACC with 6 triples. Sophomore Ryan Jackson returns at short after closing the season there when Tomas was moved to the DH slot. Jackson hit .286 in 2007. The third base job will be retained by Mark Sobolewski. Mark hit .345 as a freshman and was second on the team with 54 RBIs.

OUTFIELD - If there's a weak link in the Cane lineup, it may be found in the outfield. Center fielder Blake Tekotte leads the way coming off a .333 season and a team leading 15 stolen bases. Returning in right field is Dennis Raben. Dennis hit .280 and was second on the team with 12 HRs. He's also been used out of the bullpen. The left field job will go to Dave DiNatle to open the season. Dave hit .233 in 2007. Adam Severino may give DiNatle some competion for the starting job. Kevin Diego was also expected to challenge, but he's out for the year due to injury. Look for freshman Iden Nazarrio to start the year as the DH. He may also get some work out of the bullpen.

PITCHINGEric Erickson and Enrique Garcia head up this year's staff for the Canes. Garcia and Erickson combined to start 27 games last year. Erickson compiled a 10-4 record with a 2.50 ERA. Garcia was 8-4 with a 3.82 ERA. Scott Maine is the lone missing member of last year's weekend rotation. Scott was 5-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 17 starts. Look for Chris Hernandez to take Maine's place as the Sunday starter. The Canes will also be without Manny Miguelez who was 1-2 in 14 starts with a 5.60 ERA. Michael Rudman and John Housey will likely start out as the midweek starters. Rudman was 0-1 with a 12.34 era in 11 appearances out of the bullpen. Housey was 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA in 17 appearances. One of those appearances was a start. Carlos Gutierrez will be coming back from Tommy John surgery to be the closer for the staff. He'll be filling the shoes of Danny Gil. Gil was 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA. Gil made 34 appearances in 2007. PJ Fisher and Kyle Bellamy will handle the short relief role for the Canes. The pitching staff will be handled by freshman Yasmani Gaandal. Gaandal passed up a chance to sign a pro contract to enroll at Miami.

OUTLOOK – There's no question that Miami will be scoring runs this year. The question marks surround their pitching staff. Will Carlos Gutierrez come back from his surgery to have a strong year? Will their inexperienced midweek starters excel in their new roles as starters? How will Hernandez adapt to his role as the Sunday starter? Look for the Canes to challenge for the ACC title and make another appearance in Omaha.

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