Cohen Pleased With Weekend Scrimmaging

Three days, three scrimmage games…the Diamond Dogs can't complain about lack of activity here at the very beginning of preseason practicing.

Mississippi State got their three allotted weeks of team work off to a fast start with a busy weekend of scrimmages at Dudy Noble Field. These weren't really ‘games' as Coach John Cohen and staff preferred at this starting point to set as many different Diamond Dogs in as many different situations, offensive and defensive alike, as practical.

Sunday epitomized this plan, as some pitchers worked a scripted number of pitches. Others entered for specific matchups and shorter stints. Cohen actually cut the day down by a couple of innings too as scheduled pitcher Trevor Fitts was down with a bad case of flu, rather than throwing a couple of MSU moundsmen off their schedule.

Specifically, returning starter Kendall Graveman and sophomore candidate Brandon Woodruff. Both are coming off 2012 health issues and being worked in more gradually, though Cohen is confident each is back on '13 track. In fact they are now booked to go against each other Tuesday, the next scrimmage date for the Dogs.

Individual statistics and game notes will be provided in an accompanying article by Gene Swindoll. Following are Cohen's comments at the end of Sunday's scrimmage.

Coach John Cohen: "At this stage you always feel like you've got a long way to go. There are so many things you have to cover in a short amount of time. And I think the fact we had a really good fall helps us in that a little bit."

"I think physically we're in the best condition since I've been here and that really helps in a lot of ways. It helps in our running times, it helps in the way our arms are turning-around on the mound. And it helps a little bit defensively too. So I like that part. But I'm really glad we still have some time to get through some stuff."

Did anything really jump out this first weekend, that looked sharp? "Yeah, I'm really pleased with Ross Mitchell. We felt like he came in there and sank it pretty good today. Ben Bracewell has put together two really good outings in a row, he's been 92 (mph) and 93 on Friday in bad weather conditions. And today he came out and threw the ball really well. So if we can get two outings out of Ben every weekend, with his very best stuff, that's gonna be something we didn't have a year ago."

Are the batters a little more selective than a year ago at this time? "Yeah. I think we're going to have a better offensive club. I think we have some more options and we're going to be able to go a little more left/right versus in some situations, especially late in the game."

It looked like a lot of two-out, two-strike approaches today, with hitting up the middle, and the hit-and-runs? "You know, because (Trevor) Fitts is really sick, he got the flu yesterday, we had to really shorten this game. That subtracted three innings from the game so we only ended up playing a four-inning game. It was like playing in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth inning of a ball game. So there were a lot of good bunting, situational hitting, hit-and-run stuff, short game stuff."

Did we hear Demarcus Henderson ran a 3.85 to first base? "Yeah, he just ran a 3.85. And he's really been running to the ball well in the outfield. So we're pleased with that as well."

Is there any update on Kendall Graveman and Brandon Woodruff? "Those guys are going to pitch on Tuesday. We wanted to give them an extra day. Kendall is so far ahead of schedule, his last couple of pens have been just outstanding. I don't know if I've ever seen him throw the ball the way I have the last two outings. So that's exciting for us because he's certainly a leader and somebody who has been through some SEC wars."

"Brandon is doing OK, he's got a little bit of a sore elbow going. But he long-tossed up to 250 feet the other day and he felt good."

You got to work a whole lot of defensive and pitching combinations in just three scrimmages? "You know, we really have a lot of guys who are settling in. And we're trying to make decisions as to whether it's going to be second base or third base. And I think having really healthy Trey Porter is going to be important to us down the line as well. But we still feel like there's a lot of competition in those two spots, at third base and second base. And we have to come to some fruition, but right now there's great competition there."

Wes Rea physically looks different and at the plate too? "I think he's got a different approach. And he's just got to relax and let the game come to him a little bit, and be a guy in the middle of the order who can do some damage for us."

He, Porter, Cox, Holder, many guys look in better condition? "Yeah, those guys have all lost weight. Holder looks so much better, I think he's lost 15 or 20 pounds as well. Our strength and conditioning coach, Brian Neal, has done an amazing job with those guys. And he's doing about six different workouts with our players. He's got a speed group, he's got a power group, he's got a reliever group, a starter group, a middle group. I mean he's just done a great job and our kids have bought into making their bodies better."

What is the plan for this week? "We're going to intrasquad Tuesday, I don't know if we can get five or six innings out of that. Then we'll try to go right back to Friday-Saturday-Sunday. Tomorrow will be off and we will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; and then intrasquad Friday-Saturday-Sunday."

Have the newcomers acclimated to the point you'd like? "Yeah. I think that was a big at-bat for Jacob Robson late in the game, he's somebody that can just fly and he's facing one of the best closers in our league. He doesn't score the runner but he finds a way to get the barrel on the baseball. I think he's going to be a factor for us."

"Brett Pirtle is really versatile, he can play second or third base. He's put together some nice at-bats and is a very good defender as well, he doesn't panic. Junior college baseball in Texas is very high-caliber baseball and I think he is somebody who is going to contribute to this club as well. (Kyle) Hann is a very good player. We're putting him in some positions he's never played; he's never played third base, been more of a shortstop but I think he is going to end up being a very good player as well."

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