Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

1-On-1 With Butch Thompson

Mississippi State pitching coach and associate head baseball coach Butch Thompson talks 1-on-1 with about what he has seen from his pitchers this fall.

Are you starting to see which pitchers are competing for the starting and relieving roles on the staff based on what you have seen so far in the fall?
"We are throwing eight starters a week, so we are giving guys a chance. I think we have seen growth in some of these guys playing in summer ball and the start of early fall. And I think it was a good decision by coach (John Cohen) to keep that momentum going for these guys. We have continued to see that from Dakota (Hudson) and Daniel Brown who probably threw his best outing since he has been in a Mississippi State uniform. Also Austin Sexton. And even through adversity Vance Tatum, who threw a two-run home runs shut them down the next eight batters. He also threw 76% strikes and that is what I want to see from him.

"And I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the other four guys, our freshmen who are starting during the week. I see a real skill level from the freshman class that is arguably the best that I have seen during my time in the SEC.

"You can come out and see the guys in a scrimmage games but I see the other part. I see how they embrace a routine, how they warm up and how they are working everyday, basically behind the scenes. I am seeing more maturity and seeing guys with a sense of urgency."

Dakota Hudson is definitely in the mix for your SEC Friday night starting pitcher, isn't he?
"Yes, I think so. Plus, they have been here and are throwing the ball well. Plus, they have grown and matured. Last year a lot of them hadn't been in that frame at that moment. They will, at least, get that opportunity early in the season as long as they stay healthy. Then, when it shakes out and we get to SEC play we should know exactly what we want to do."

Of our four veteran starters, you have two right-handers (Dakota Hudson, Austin Sexton) and two left-handers (Vance Tatum, Daniel Brown). Will you be able to mix and match them as starters? They are potentially SEC guys.
"Yes, I think they are ready to be called an SEC starter. I thought we were thinner at that last year. But I think it has been stronger this fall. I still think we are looking for some bullpen pieces. But for the majority of the 15 fall scrimmages the starters have gotten the games underway well. They have been throwing strikes and getting us to play defense. I have been pleased with that."

Speaking of relievers, you have two that have performed pretty well in relief, Paul Young and Ryan Rigby.
"We are tickled with Paul. His last four innings in his last two outings he has something like eight strikeouts and one walk. But I'm more tickled that he is into two-plus years of fighting back. We are excited for him because he has worked so hard."

I have him at 91-92 miles per hour. Do you think he has even more velocity in his arm?
"I don't know. But I think he has enough. Nobody has really squared up his fastball. He has had a lot of foul balls."

What is it about his fastball? It is not a mid-90s fastball.
"I think it is 90 enough. That is what I call it. Some guys can throw 95 but the hitters are getting the bat head out front on them. But Paul's fastball seems to be a heavy fastball that appears to be getting on the hitters quicker. And in his last two outings his breaking ball reminds you of Jonathan Holder's. It is that type breaking ball."

Rigby is another one that has had his moments in relief. He did give up the grand slam homer to Brent Rooker but he really looked great the inning before.
"We are in a period of growth with some guys. Zac Houston is trying different slots. We have changed some things with Rigby. Today, he had his first three-up, three down inning of the fall."

Where does Cole Gordon fit on the staff? He appears to be increasing his velocity every outing.
"With Wes Rea gone, we are using Cole at first base. But I try to get him an outing a week so he can continue to grow as a pitcher. His last outing I think he was 90-91 and finished the ballgame. I thought he was a little stiff, a little tight today. So, I got him out immediately."

Where do you see Logan Elliot fitting in relief?
"Middle innings. And if they have two right-handers coming to bat. We are trying to get him better against lefties. But yesterday he threw 75% strikes. That was promising. He just needs to throw strikes and let the ball get into play."

Do you have an idea who your closer might be?
"I don't. I'm leaving that open-ended. I'm going to let the guys define that instead of us naming somebody."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network.

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