1-on-1 With MSU Pitching Coach Butch Thompson

Mississippi State Associate Head Coach/Pitching Coach Butch Thompson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about how his pitchers have done during the first week of scrimmages.

Overall, what is your impressions of your pitchers after watching them perform in the first few scrimmages?
"Everybody has tossed at least one time. Several of them have thrown two times. We will continue to experiment with them in different roles. This is the most new first-year guys that we have had in several years. You can tell some of the guys haven't ever pitched for us before. You can tell with the little things, things such as controlling the running game, getting on the same page. I can see our catchers kind of searching trying to figure out each pitcher. We all know the sooner we find the players identities the sooner we can start developing their skills and master their craft.

"I thought our hitters were very comfortable, especially Saturday down in Jackson. Today (Sunday) I think there was more of an inter-prescience. I think our guys are going to have to understand that at this level somebody wins every pitcher. Jay Powell came here a couple of years ago and spoke to our pitching staff. That was one thing he really mentioned, that somebody wins every pitch.

"Today was Jessie McCord's and Paxton Stover's first time out. They didn't make every pitch that they wanted to but they have good enough skill that if they can make pitchers and improve their sequences they can have bright futures for us."

What I noticed about McCord is his curveball and his pickoff move. Both are exceptional. His velo was 86-88.
"He has a real good breaking ball. That (pickoff move) is normal for him. And I think he has a little more (velo) than that. That is why he is here. He can really control the running game, a good athlete on the mound, and he's a righthanded pitcher who possesses a real good breaking ball. That should fare well for him.

"But I think if you ask him I think he would tell you that he didn't put the fastball where he wanted to on both sides of the plate like it will be required to to be successful at this level. But he's got a really good starting point and he didn't get beat up out there. Hopefully, he will take some confidence from this and continue to grow."

Stover didn't perform as well as McCord but still only allowed one run in his outing.
"He was still effective. He is lefthanded and has some movement on his pitches. I can kind of see what he is trying to do. And if I can see what you are trying to do you don't have to be perfect."

The hitters hit the ball well. How does that help your pitchers?
"I believe that iron sharpens iron. The start that Jacob Robson got off to this week is causing our pitchers to have to really compete against the running game. Jacob makes us better. For first-year pitchers to have to compete against someone like Jacob Robson will make them better. He is sharpening us.

"This first time around there have been times when we left pitches up and our hitters have enough skill to make us pay. Wes Rea has swung the bat well. Brent Rooker has also swung the bat well. Gavin Collins has, too. John Holland had a great week, as has Seth Heck. Heck probably had 13 quality at-bats in 15 total at-bats. Luke Reynolds has looked good hitting the ball. I see high quality depth with our lineup. Our hitters have made our pitchers pay. I think iron sharpens there as well."

I didn't see him pitch but based on the writeup that I saw it sounds like Austin Sexton had a good day on the mound Saturday.
"He threw four complete innings. He came right out and pitched well. He had a good first inning that allowed him to throw four good innings."

Vance Tatum also had a good outing, striking out 5 in 2 innings.
"He gave up a couple of runs in his first inning but his second inning was dramatically different. I think he struck out the side in the second inning. He just has to learn how to be in the zone and be loose. A lot to guys that we sign started for their high schools. They have to learn the art of coming from the bullpen to the game mound. Sometimes, throwing in relief takes awhile to get comfortable with."

Zac Houston pitched well in the Sunday game.
"I thought he did, too. That is what he did this summer. I give his summer a lot of the credit. I wanted him to practice coming out of the bullpen and I thought he did a good job of doing that. I'm starting to see that a little bit. I think he had an 8 to 10-pitch inning when he came in and did some good work for us."

What is Dakota Hudson's and Lucas Laster's status?
"Dakota hasn't pitched yet. He's been out for two weeks with a back injury. We hope he will be able to pitch next weekend. Lucas is out with mono but we hope to have him back this coming week."

Trevor Fitts is being used in relief this fall. Talk about that.
"Trevor has started a lot of games for us the past two years. This may not wind up being his role but he is throwing out of the bullpen. He actually came in as a closer Saturday. He did fine in the role. He had a scoreless inning. We'll do this for another week and see how it goes."

How have Preston Brown and Daniel Brown pitched?
"I thought that Preston threw fine. He kept the ball down in the zone. Daniel Brown also pitched well. He was 89 every pitch. And he has movement. He has a surviveable fastball."

How did Trent Waddell look in his outing?
"He threw well in his outing. He threw good out of the bullpen. He was 85-86 and really down in the zone. He also plays first base for us."

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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