Coach Cohen's Corner

UK Baseball coach John Cohen sits down with Kentucky Sports Report's Rob Gidel about his 3-0 start, recording his 200th win and his goals for the upcoming pre-season slate and weekend.

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Coach, 3 strong victories against some good competition. Your initial thoughts on a very successful weekend that brought you your 200th victory.

John Cohen: I'm really pleased about this weekend, I just wish we could have played on Sunday, but you know, it was 29 degrees, there was ice on the bridges around the ballpark and that's not why you fly south to play. I thought it was a good weekend, we pitched it well. I hate using the world chemistry, but this group gets along so well, so I guess I have to. I'm really looking forward to this year. This is my 3rd year now and we are very close to where I wanna be as a program.

As far as the 200th victory goes - well, I think that more than anything, just tells you how long you've coached.

Team chemistry is high
Coach, 3 different lineups in 3 seperative victories, is this something Kentucky fans should expect to see in the future and regardless, you've really gotta like team's depth?

John Cohen: I really do like the depth, we've got 13 to 14 position players and they all deserve opprtunities to play. Its not necessary that I'm trying to mix it up. It's like we tell the players, we don't make out the lineups, the players do - in practices, in games. It's a good problem to have. At Florida, we had the best offensive team in the country, we had 13, 14 guys as well and we switched it up alot. It shows kids that they have to compete for their spots and that they have to continue to perform.

Coach, Aaron Tennyson won his fourth straight decision dating back to last year and is 7-1 since the beginning of 2005. Can you comment on his weekend

Cohen: Our pitching coach Gary Henderson has really done a remarkable job with Aaron. You know when I got here, Aaron really did not have a breaking ball and as a left hander, that's extremely important. We feel we've got Aaron's curve ball quality to an SEC quality breaking ball. His change-up is getting a lot better. As a 6-4 athlete, 185 pounds, who is very athletic, he's got very good tempo, so we feel very high on Aaron and obviously over the weekend he was outstanding.

We're a team that pitches on pitch counts. (Tennyson) maxes out at 80 pitches, so he'll usually only get through 5 innings. It's a great outing if he gets through 6 and it's a remarkable outing, if he gets through 7. We were just thrilled, he actually only got through 78 pitches, so it was a remarkable performance.

We tell the guys it's not so much performance, but seeing your pitch count and playing to it. They've got a certain amount of pitches to throw. If they want the win, they've gotta be pretty economic with their pitches. It causes early action in our games and gets balls in play.

Antone DeJesus' now has a 10 game hit streak heading into this week after a monster weekend, talk about his progression as a player ...

Cohen: Antone is an electric athlete. He's probably one of the best defenders I've seen and I've been coaching baseball for 14 years. He's an absolute menace on the bases. He knows what he can and can't do on the basepaths and at the plate. He's slapping the ball through the holes that are given and he's got opposing coaches nervous about what he's going to do everytime he's on (the bases).

Matt Robinson returned from injury Friday and struggled a little bit. Are you still high on him and will he stay as the number 2 guy?

Cohen: We love Matt. He's just the ideal college athlete. He's an engineering major and he's a real good student. All he does is study and play baseball all day long. For whatever reason he just hasn't figured out the game situations, yet. But in the bullpen, it is all there - the control, the velocity. It's another case of our pitching coach, Gary Henderson, who has done a great job with Matt. For some reason it isn't making the move to the game field. I do think it's a little bit of a concern right now, but he'll still get his opportunities.

UK's postseason chances may
fall on Snipp
Senior Craig Snipp came on in relief in Game 2 and really did a great job in subbing for Matt.

Cohen: Craig's the guy. If we're gonna do anything special this year, he's gonna have to be an 80 to 100 inning guy for us. He's got a great curve ball and changeup. He knows how to get in and out of the zone. He can elevate it or sink it and is just the complete college pitcher. For right now, we need him in the bullpen as a safety net, but he might have to start once we hit SEC play. He's gonna see a lot of innings. Overall, I'm alot more comfortable in our bullpen this year in comparison to last year.

Sean Coughlin sure enjoyed his first weekend as a Cat, homering in his first at-bat at Kentucky. He's a new name to some of us, talk about him ...

Cohen: Sean's a 6-foot-2, 210 pound left handed hitting catcher. He's got big power, big-time strength, and excellent leadership skills. We've got a case here at Kentucky, where we've got two excellent options at catcher. 'Scutch' (Justin Scutchfield) is one of the best defensive catchers in the SEC, while Sean is one of the best offensive catchers in the SEC. It's a case where if you could put them together, you'd really have something, but Sean is getting better defensively. He's getting better at throwing and receiving, which were not his strengths.

Is there any position that you are a little worried about heading into the season? Any positions you might be skeptical about?

Cohen: Positionally, I really like this club. You've got a guy at third in Michael Bertam, who's just a warrior out there. This is his 4th year in the program. We really love his competitiveness and work ethic. He's a guy that you can always depend on bringing the lunch pale everyday. Just a blue collar work ethic and he's been a tremendous asset to our team. We've got (Matt) McKinney at third as well. He's a left handed hitting junior college addition that plays the field well. So having them both at third, gives you a right handed hitter and a left handed hitter, which allows you to be flexible with pitching matchups.

Ryan Strieby got off to a slow start, but this guy's a ticking time bomb. Just a gorilla out there. It may take 6 or 7 weeks, but when he gets it all together... watch out. He's just too good of a hitter to hold down for so long. Of course, we've got John Shelby at second. He hit the ball hard this weekend and was swinging the bat well, he just didn't get any to fall, and Ryan Wilkes, with the exception of some errors here or there, made some big time plays, I love what he's giving us defensively.

Coach Cohen, pitcher Greg Drombrowski really came up big this weekend in Game 3. Has he settled in as the number 3 starter?

Albers' health important
key to season
Cohen: I think we still gotta have Andrew Albers as a factor. He's had some arm problems of late, so we are going to bring him back slow, but he's a guy that if he gets his arm troubles figured out, is gonna be the real deal and is gonna be a starter for us. Andrew was a 12th round pick by the Brewers two years ago and as soon as he's ready to go, I think he'll be back in the mix. We've got the option to pitch 3 lefties on any given weekend, which is a great asset. Chris Rusin, from Detroit, is a big time freshmen that's gonna see the field, but Greg Drombrowski is a guy that is definitely gonna help us this year. Greg has a two seem fastball that has gotten some life to it. He could be a fill-in or a middle week starter for us.

If Sunday's game hadn't been called due to bad weather, who would have started on the mound?

Cohen: We were going to start Tommy Warner, the kid from Lexington. We were actually going to throw all 7 pitchers at them. It was so cold, we thought we'd give them a strip pitching lineup, because that would give us our best shot to win. When it's that cold, it's hard to expect anyone to get there arm warm and keep it warm. By stripping it out, we could go ahead and tell the kids what inning they were gonna pitch ahead of time and have them get warm on their own. We had only used 4 of the 12 arms we took on the trip, so I was all set to use everyone I had.

Any other young arms going to see some action anytime soon?

Cohen: I think you'll see Duran Ferguson, a freshmen from Tennessee play some. He's a big kid, about 6-3, 220. He's got a great arm, he's the type of kid that we think will be able to throw 94-95 miles per hour here soon. We've got (Brock) Baber back this year, out of the bullpen. Zach Dials, a junior college addition, was outstanding in relief on Saturday. He struck out 2 and was virtually unhittable. He's got an excellent slider that moves well and a great fastball, with a plus change up. He's the type of guy that wants to be in the game late in the game, which is exactly what we are looking for. Dewayne Oxford, another junior college guy we added, is a submarine guy. He gets really good movement on the ball and brings us more help later in the game. I think having (Brock) Baber back is big, he's a guy that really pitched well when he was healthy and he's another sidearm guy.

On the Ryan Strieby story on how he got to Lexington ...

Cohen: Well, Gary Henderson is from the Northwest and a guy from Oregon State, so he got on this kid early. He's a kid that was drafted twice by the Dodgers and is just an artist as a hitter and really has a great feel for hitting. He's got a great 240-250 body. Thank goodness he felt he wasn't ready for the next level yet, because he's really gonna be a factor for us.

Did the fact he was choosing UK among some baseball powers, intimidate you?

Cohen: You know what, that doesn't intimidate me. I'd rather fight the battles and not win 'em, then not fight them at all. UK is certainly not a traditional baseball power, so we are gonna lose some kids. Last year, we lost a kid to LSU and Georgia, but we've beaten both of those schools for kids, too, so we've gotta keep fighting those battles. We sit here and expect our kids to compete at the highest level, so we do too. We've got a lot to deal with in college baseball. We've got the draft issue each year, in addition to normal recruiting battles. But our early signing period class was outstanding. I mean, I'd put our signing class up against anyone in the country. We got a bunch of arms and another power first baseman. It's a class that if we bring in only 60 to 70 percent of the class, I would still be very happy.

On what he'd like to accomplish in the pre-conference slate, in particular the period prior to heading home next Tuesday?

Cohen: We need to get alot of people involved. Wins and losses are very important, don't get me wrong, but most important is how you perform in the Southeastern Conference, which is the best baseball conference in all of America. The way you play in the SEC is the ticket to success and excellence. We've gotta be ready and get these kids ready to play. We're gonna lose games before league play and that's just because we're gonna need to play everybody. That's just the reality of the situation, we're gonna need information about players. (Former LSU baseball coach) Skip Bertman was a master at finding information about his team. He would lose midweek games because he was trying all kinds of combinations, because he needed to see what he had. That's how you have to do it. The best team in our league last year won just 66% of our games in our league, so you've got to be ready to bring it come conference time.

Third-year UK head baseball coach John Cohen sits down with Kentucky Sports Report each week to answer questions about his program. Premium members can always get the latest updates and breaking news on our premium message board, as well as game recaps and notes. Click here to become a premium member.

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