Butch Thompson Interview, Dec 5, 2013

Mississippi State associate head coach Butch Thompson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about the MSU pitchers after the conclusion of fall scrimmages.

The first pitcher that I want to talk about is junior Brandon Woodruff. He seemed to have come back really strong after his surgery.
"Last year was so challenging for Brandon (because of the injury). And he's work so hard to come back. I don't think we could have asked for anything else from him for his last three outings. He threw 32 of 38 first-pitch strikes. He pounded the strikezone. He was hard to hit. We do fall awards and he was selected our baseball commander because he had the highest percentage of command of his pitches this fall. We are still building his stamina to 90 pitches. If he's going to be a starter we have to build his stamina."

True freshman Jacob Billingsley is next on the list alphabetically.
"We think he is made for getting us some outs against righthanded hitters with runners on the bases. We really like his breaking ball but we have to continue working with him to get his fastball in a better spot. I guess the best way to describe him is he is our best righthanded breaking ball pitcher with Woodruff, Fitts and other guys starting and Holder at the back end of the bullpen."

Senior Ben Bracewell.
"I'm going to continue to build him up in pitch counts as a starter. We just took two pins out of his feet. He pitched the entire fall with those pins in his feet. I thought he got some work done but he wasn't the electric Ben Bracewell. I hope with the pins out we will see the life in his pitches that we have seen in the past."

Senior C.T. Bradford is the next on the list.
"We got a good fall from C.T. (as a pitcher). After taking a little break, I thought he came back for the fall World Series and really competed. C.T. is going to have some kind of role (on our staff). We have to continued pitching him and Ben Bracewell, two of our seniors."

Sophomore Preston Brown.
"Preston was our pitcher of the fall. He led our team in strikeouts but he threw more innings than a lot of guys. He turned the most double play ground balls. He was the Most Valuable Pitcher of the fall World Series. He is a strike thrower. I'm just tickled to death where he is at and how he has grown. If he continues to pitch the way he did in the fall, then he'll get the chance to pitch all that he wants to."

Junior Will Cox is next.
"Will can throw middle relief for us. He, along with Ross Mitchell, can roll through a lineup a time or two. I gave him an award called I'm Ready. He's ready to pitch every day. His value to our ballclub is he had 15 appearances in 27 fall games."

Junior Trevor Fitts is the next pitcher.
"He is going to be some type of starter for us, whether it is Saturday or Sunday. He had a really good fall for us. He had the fewest three-ball counts. He does a great job with the running game. Trevor Fitts is who we are. He is who we are on the field and off the field."

Sophomore Myles Gentry.
"Myles missed a lot of time this fall but he's throwing now. He provides us a different look. And like Cox, he can throw all of the time. We have to continue to get his breaking ball better. He also has to learn to continue to navigate through lefthanded hitters like he did against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament."

True freshman Avery Geyer.
"Avery turned his ankle and that was an issue for him the entire fall. We actually haven't seen Avery throw at the level that we recruited him for due to his injury. We haven't seen him be himself the entire fall. We just have to keep working with him to help him return to form."

Junior Jonathan Holder.
"Jonathan loves to compete. He went out and pitched two times a week during the fall. And I thought he finished well during the World Series. In the last game he threw 8 pitches and they were all to absolute precision. Jonathan is always trying to improve and try new things. During the fall he tried to stretch his stride out but it didn't help him. Then, he shorten his stride and he got back to where he was. And I thought he finished the fall great. He squatted 500 pounds last week. He's the strongest pitcher that I have ever had in the squat."

True freshman Zac Houston.
"Zac threw ever way you could. We threw him high slot, middle slot and low slot. We've now settled in with him pretty good. When he's in the windup you think this guy can be really good. Then when he's in the stretch you think we really need to work on him when he's in the stretch. Our entire post-fall work with him is working on him becoming as effective in the stretch as he is in the windup."

True freshman Dakota Hudson.
"We are really excited about Dakota's potential. He has to continue to blending his stuff and his command if he wants to become a one-percenter. Coach Cohen made the comment that 'Dakota Hudson makes me feel like he wants to be great.' He works very hard every day. He's attentive to whatever information anybody has for him. He has not given away any days. He is very mature for a freshman. He has a 96 mile per hour fastball, a plus breaking ball that is around the zone. He is a starter for us."

Junior Ben Hudspeth.
"Ben has to continue to get in better shape. He got better as the fall continued. He's a competitive bullpen guy."

True freshman Glenn Irby.
"He's a guy who is constantly redefining himself. His command hasn't been where we want it to be the last year, year and a half. But he is a hard worker. He has an unbelievable willingness to try and figure things out."

Junior Lucas Laster.
"Lucas is a lefthander. He had our highest fall earn run average but I really like him. He has command and he can pick. But he got hit really hard in the fall. But I do think he possesses command. Sometimes a player really listens to you when they fail. That is when they come to you for help. We are switching to a grip that will match to someone like a Ross Mitchell. The one-seam fastball has allowed us to put in an entirely new package in post-fall. If he was a stock you would probably look at it and buy low. But I'm going to buy that stock and then make a lot of money off of it because it is going to raise in value."

Junior Jacob Lindgren.
"I see Jacob as a bullpen guy, a back end of the bullpen type pitcher. He is a lefthander who will be given ever opportunity. He just needs to get better control. Those days when he's in control and has a better line of direction to home plate you believe he's as good of a lefthander as there is. And other times, when his line of direction is off, he doesn't pitch as well. He's got to learn how to make adjustments when his line of direction is not correct. But we haven't found that yet."

Freshman Levi Mintz.
"He's a sinkerball pitcher. He's like Kendall Graveman when he first got here - ball one in the ground, ball two in the ground, ball three in the ground. Levi is an engineering student who is very bright, so he'll figure it out. I think he'll grow and figure it out. I want him to keep the movement that he has. He just needs to figure out where to start his pitch and finish it so that he has complete command of his pitches."

Freshman Austin Sexton
"He was my pup. He was a four-time pitcher of the day during the fall. He had the most of those among the new guys. I see a lot of pitchability from him. He just has to continue to go and get strike one. He only threw strike-one 53% of the time. If he can get strike-one 65% to 70% of the time he will be really good. He has a really good changeup. I'm excited about his future. I see some great days ahead for him."

Sophomore John Marc Shelly.
"He has really progressed but he still needs to get 10% better. I can see him having a role on the team. He started pitching with his fastball a whole lot more. But he got hit really hard. But at the end of the day he maybe figured out a thing or two. You really want a guy who can throw 92 miles per hour with a good slider to figure it out."

True freshman Vance Tatum.
"I like Vance a whole lot. He has a great body and I know he has more command than he showed in the fall. He was banged up some and only threw 5 innings for us in the fall. But I think he can pitch at a really high level. I think he is a future starter for us but he has to get healthy and start pitching for us."

Ross Mitchell didn't get to go through the fall due to surgery. How's he doing?
"He had the hip labrum, and he had surgery. He missed the entire fall due to that. Just like with the Bench Mobb, he was the leader this fall. He would spend days in the bullpen talking to the guys who were about to come in. He was basically helping me coach. He was 13-0 last year coming in out of the bullpen, so he's one of the best in the country doing that. He's back on the mound now and throwing great. We'll probably throw him against hitters next week, then he'll probably go home for Christmas. But I think when we come back from the break, it should be full speed ahead for him."

Paul Young is another pitcher who didn't pitch in a fall scrimmage due to tenderness in his elbow. How's he doing?
"(Team doctor) Dr. (Rusty) Linton thought the difference between his September MRI and his December MRI was about as exciting as it can get. And Paul is excited about it. Between now and January 10th every day is mapped out for Paul from a throwing program, a warmup program, to a workout program. Everything is mapped out for him every step of the way to allow him to catch up with every other pitcher on our staff. But for him to get caught up, he has to be the most self-committed pitcher in America for the next 45 days. If he wants to be great this coming year, then these 45 days are going to be unbelievably big for him."

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

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