Butch Thompson Talks MSU Pitching

Assistant coach Butch Thompson talks, individually, about the Sunday scrimmage pitchers.

In the first three scrimmages your pitchers are starting off each batter with a 1-1 count.
"We are just trying to fill up the strikezone. We are starting with the 1-1 count. And that's such a big count to try and throw the first pitch strike. Either you are 1-2 and head the rest of the at-bat or you are 2-1 and behind and give the hitter the advantage. All I'm telling our guys is to get into the moment."

What are your impressions of how Kendall Graveman pitched today?
"Kendall did a good job. He kind of picked up where he left off last season when he finished the last game at LSU. He's just trying to get his feet underneath him and trying to get a repeat in the strikezone. He had sink today and it stayed in the strikezone. We were able to get through four innings with him starting with the 1-1 count and he stayed under 40 pitches. So, he was very efficiently."

What are your thoughts about Chad Girodo?
"Chad threw a lot this summer so we delayed him getting started. (Due to that) he's only been throwing about three weeks. But he did a great job with his fastball today. I think he was nice and easy with it. He had good finish to the plate and actually got some swing and misses on his fastball. The ability to show a little bit of swing and miss with his fastball is important. Last year, when he would throw a fastball away from a righthander he would get a little cut on it and it would come into the righthander and would assist them in their swing plane. Today, he got a couple of swing and misses that righthanders pulled off of and ran out of bat because the ball had good two-seam action and ran away from them. That and his command of it stuck out to me the most. His breaking ball is a little better, although he couldn't get it over for a strike, so it relegated him to one pitch. But he's only been throwing breaking balls for four days now. That's something that we have to do a better job of when we get him ready for his next outing. But based where he is at right now, he did a great job with what his mission was today."

True freshman righthanded pitcher Evan Mitchell really looked good today. He really threw hard today.
"I was trying to get him to throw 80% (laugh), nice and easy in the strikezone (but he threw hard instead). But on one hand, a coach likes that because his competitive nature took over. When you really talk to them I want them to understand what 80% is. It doesn't mean lobbing the ball up there and not accelerate it or not getting finish on the pitch. What it means is allowing your arm to work easy and efficiently and you being in control and not your body being in control. And you can actually throw harder if you stay easy. I think Evan was so easy today that his arm really worked loose and easy today."

I saw him in the summer of 2009 and he didn't throw 90, 91 like he did today. Has he been throwing that hard in 4 on 1s this fall?
"We have been doing that long toss program for about five weeks and I think they have done a really good job with that. And he is throwing the ball over a football field three or four times a week which is a distance of 300 feet. And I think that has built some arm-strength in some of these guys.

"He threw a lot of strikes today and had a good height level. If you are going to have success, the height level and his ability to throw strikes is so important. He just commanded the count so well today."

Did he have sink in his fastball today?
"I thought that I saw both today. I thought he threw the ball downhill and I thought he had some late life and sink.Nobody really got the ball elevated on him. There were some balls that were beaten into the ground today because he had good sink and tilt to it today. I was tickled to death for him for his first time."

Another true freshman who pitched was lefty Ross Mitchell.
"Ross got to four innings for us. He tried to attack and didn't try to make perfect pitches. He is crafty and has the ability to throw a fastball in, which is quality. He can throw a fastball on both sides of the plate. He showed a curveball a couple of times. He also threw a couple of changeups, which is still a work in progress. I think he picked a runner off today."

Something that has impressed me after watching the pitchers in three scrimmages is their control. Have you noticed the same thing?
"Absolutely. That is all that we have talked about for five weeks. We have to make a commitment to do that. We are not going to take the next step with our pitching staff until we are able to get into the top tier of the SEC in pumping strikes in the strikezone. That hurt us bad, especially in the second half of the last two seasons. We are trying to get them to be totally sold on that. I do on-base percentage (after each scrimmage) and give it to the guys. After the first two games, when our pitchers were ahead in the count when the at-bat ended, it is a 200 on-base percentage. When they were behind in the count when the at-bat ended, it has been a 550 on-base percentage. I'm trying to get our guys to understand that when the at-bat ends success happens when you are ahead in the count."

Who will pitch Tuesday's scrimmage?
"It will be our secondary guys. You'll see C.T. Bradford, Nolan Thomas, Trey Johnson (and Cody Abraham) . Hunter Renfroe might throw an inning or two. And we'll go from there."

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Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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