TIGER BASEBALL: Practice Report

One had to take a second look while watching the Tigers take infield practice Thursday, just to make sure what was being seen was correct.

Much like coach Smoke Laval's early-season batting order the past two seasons, the 2005 infield has undergone a major revision and will probably not be set for a nother couple of months. How does it look at the moment? Let's check it out.


First base

Blake Gill, who has played every position in the infield and was the Tigers' primary shortstop last season, has been practicing at the spot where he spent the majority of his freshman year of 2002: first base. Gill had right shoulder surgery this past fall, and is probably spending time at first to reduce the amount of throwing he has to do. He will be ready to DH at the seson's opener and may return to his shortstop position by March, but with the infield talent available this remains to be seen. In 2004, Gill appeared in 62 games with 60 starts (30 at shortstop, 29 at second base, one at DH), batting .343 (81-for-236) with 11 doubles, four triples, five homers, 42 RBI and 42 runs scored. Will Harris will obviously retain his starting role at first. In fall practice, Harris hit .479 in the Tigers' intrasquad games with nine doubles and 10 RBI. In the 2004 season he appeared in 55 games, batting .329 (57-for-173) with nine doubles, seven homers, 39 RBI and 38 runs. 


Second base

Perhaps the most surprising item of note was that Clay Harris has been taking infield practice at second base. Is this of any significance? It's hard to say since it's so early in the session, but I can say I've never seen Clay Harris even practice anywhere but first or third base. Harris played first for the Tigers until the arrival of his younger brother Will allowed him to move to his natural third base position. He started all 65 of LSU's games (48 at third base, 17 at first base), batting .297 (74-for-249) with 13 doubles, three triples, seven homers, 51 RBI and 51 runs scored. Also at second base were true freshmen Michael Hollander and Nicholas Pontiff, the former with the freaky swing I touched on yesterday and the latter the younger brother of the late LSU great Wally Pontiff. 


Third base

A guy who was supposed to make a big splash for LSU last season, Bryan Harris (no relation to Clay or Will), was forced to take a medical redshirt last year after a knee injury in spring practice ended his chances to make an impact. Harris transferred to LSU in the fall of 2003 after one season at Santa Ana (Calif.) College and is a natural second baseman, but all of his practice time so far has been at the hot corner. Why he is at third and Clay Harris is at second is anyone's guess, but there is still about three weeks to go before the season begins. Newcomers J.P. Padron and Chris Jackson (yes, the placekicker/punter Chris Jackson) round out the crew that has been taking infield drills at third. 



Gill's injury and rehabilitation will probably result in Derek Hebert getting the starting nod at shortstop to open the 2005 season. Last year, Hebert split time with Gill at the position, in which he compiled a .228 batting average in 90 trips to the plate. He collected one home run and six RBIs while scoring 22 runs on 25 hits.  Newcomer Brett Sager, a 5-foot-6, 160-pound fireplug of a guy, and Michael Hollander are giving Hebert a run for his money and the starting job at shortstop, as well. 


The first round of 2005 intrasquad games are set to begin today at 3:22pm, featuring pitchers Lane Mestepey, Jason Determann, Chase Dardar and Chris Cahill. Saturday's 1:15 pm scrimmage will see pitchers Clay Dirks, Brandon Nall, Eric English and Justin Meier; Sunday's game at 12:45 pm sees Greg Smith, Jordan Faircloth, and another, to-be-announced hurler.  All pitchers will throw 4 innings, and many players will see time at many different positions throughout the weekend.

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