"He is a true freshman lefthander. We had him in camp here at Mississippi State. His dad is a Mississippi State graduate. So, there was an immediate interest and connection.
"Jeramiah is a very projectable pitcher. What he showed this fall is the ability to use his fastball. He doesn't have a high velocity fastball, but one that is sneaky and has some life. He is going to get physically stronger the next two years. With that, his velocity should increase. We have to work on some breaking pitches in the meantime. We are very excited about him."
Watching him pitch in the fall, wasn't he throwing in the 83-84 mile per hour range?
"Well, he was 86, 87 a couple of times this fall. But it hasn't been there consistently. His dad is a big, physical guy. Jeramiah could grow into that kind of body. He is a very loose kid. Looseness in a pitcher usually equates to life on his stuff. Kind of like Jamie Gant."
Freshman Jesse Carver
"Jesse Carver is another freshman lefthander from here in Starkville that really came on as last year's high school season progressed. He wasn't even on the radar screen early, then he really started throwing well. A lot of people started going in and seeing him and recruiting him. We are excited about having him.
"He had a good summer for the West Point legion team, the Bryan Packers. He had flashes of greatness this fall. He was dominating in the fall, but that was early when the hitters aren't quite ready for those live outings. Jesse has to learn to be more of a three-pitch guy. It seemed like every outing this fall he had one pitch working pretty good. It might have been his curveball, change or fastball. He is definitely in our future plans. Whether the future is this year, I don't know. He is going to be an SEC pitcher someday. There's no question about that."
After watching him in the fall, it appears he doesn't get rattled easily.
"He is pretty calm. He is very competitive and has a good pace of the game. He keeps the game moving."
Doesn't he have a pretty good fastball?
"He probably has the best arm strength of any of the freshman lefthanders."
Junior Brett Cleveland
"I was really encouraged with Brett. The innings he got in the regional last year, he showed you in the North Carolina game that he can pitch. That showed that Brett can do it in a big environment. His fall was inconsistent. His summer was sporadic. He played some first base, pitched some. He probably didn't get as many innings in the summer as we hoped. He ended up on a team in Memphis where he got a few more innings.
"Brett has to pitch down in the strike zone. He is more of a sinker, two-seamer down guy. When he is up in the strike zone, his ball is pretty flat, pretty hittable. Everything we do with Brett's mechanics is to get him more on a downward plane. When he pitches down, he is dominate. He dominated our guys a couple of times this fall.
"He has a calm demeanor on the mound. He doesn't get rattled. As long as he can stay focused and have good practices, he will be a good pitcher for us. He will get some opportunities."
Is he showing more consistency?
"He has made the decision to pursue pitching only. He is not a dual-position guy any longer. He is trying to concentrate on pitching with the hopes of winning a job there. I think that will help Brett in the spring because he will get more time with me."
Redshirt freshman Jon Crosby
"He is very projectable, very loose, lanky; all the things you look for in a pitcher. He has the ability to throw high velocity fastballs. When he is in the zone, he has a chance to dominate. He is the transfer from Georgia Tech that is, basically, in a rebuilding stage right now. He basically went an entire year at Georgia Tech and didn't get a chance to pitch. He started over this summer and was doing pretty good, then he got hit by the line drive to his face. He has had two major setbacks in a year's team. We are doing things with him to help him overcome both. We are rebuilding his mechanics. We are trying to get him where he is not a maximum, out-of-control delivery pitcher. We are trying to make him more of a pitcher and he is responding very well. He seems to be very happy, very comfortable at Mississippi State. That is very important.
"I think what you will see from Jon is some spot opportunities early in the season with the hope that he will become a midweek type starter before the year is over. He is that projectable."
I remember that his velocity was kind of up and down during the fall.
"His velocity kind of jumped around. He has a hard time repeating his delivery. One day, he would be in sync really well and he would be 88-89. Then another day, he would be a little out of sync and throw 83. It is very common to see a tall, lanky, young guy like him do that."
Sophomore Brad Corley
"We made the decision last year to get his feet wet in a setting that wasn't pressure packed. We decided to run him out every Wednesday and give him five or six innings.
"This guy really has the talent to play professional baseball either as an outfielder or pitcher. We don't want to take either one away from him, so we are going to use him as a reliever. He has closing type stuff. He has that swing and miss capability. He is going to get more opportunities as a reliever, which will, hopefully, improve his mechanics enough so that he is in the strike zone, especially better than he was this fall. I wasn't really worried about it this fall because I wasn't doing anything with Brad during his outings as a pitcher. He would pitch in the scrimmage, then the next five days, he would play rightfield. I wasn't getting him in the bullpen and getting him back on delivery drills. In the spring, he will get a little mechanical work, even on gameday. During the off-season, I will get 8 bullpen sessions with him."
Junior Todd Doolittle
"Todd is the Meridian Community College transfer who was a starter in junior college. He has an upper 80's fastball. He was mostly 88, but he touched 90 a few times. I don't think he is physical enough to do that five or six innings. I think he can show that for a couple of innings. His biggest strength is his curveball. It is kind of a power curve. It is almost a knee buckler against righthanded hitters. That is the pitch that has to be there for him to succeed. He is tough on righthanded hitters. He has the potential to be a midweek starter this year with the potential to also be that two-inning reliever on the weekends. Early in the season, his opportunities will come out of the bullpen, then we will see what transpires from there."
Sophomore Brooks Dunn
"I thought that Brooks improved leaps and bounds this fall with his ability to pitch. His stuff has always been pretty good. He has the ability to throw in the 90's but he really doesn't have to. His slider was pretty good this fall. He has always had a pretty decent changeup. He is a very competitive guy. His mindset is the type where you would want to keep in the pen. He is also very durable. His arm never seems to get sore.
"The role he pitched in as a freshman was very difficult. As a freshman lefthander, he came out of the bullpen at big moments in big games. Brooks overthrew a little bit. He was trying to do things he wasn't physically capable of doing. I think his summer in the CICL, a collegiate league, was a good summer. He was 5-1 or 6-1 for Danville."
Junior Eric Ebers
"Eric is a transfer from John Logan College. His first outing of the fall wasn't really like Eric. Every outing after that was pretty good.
"He is a typical lefthander. He has movement on his stuff. He throws a good changeup. The strength he has is he keeps the game moving. He keeps the ball in play, but not a lot of guys get real swings against him. You have to play good defense behind him."
Where will he fit on the staff?
"It depends on Jamie Gant. If Gant stays as a starter, then I think Ebers becomes a Tuesday starter, the 4th starter."
Why were his stats so bad during the summer?
"His arm was dead, he had a tired arm. He finally shut it down two or three starts into it. His summer league coach, who is a good friend of mine, called him in and told him he wasn't the same guy. A guy who relies on the use of a changeup has to have his fastball to set up it up. And he lost his fastball. He got it back this fall. His velocity creeped back up."
Sophomore Jamie Gant
"He had another solid fall and finished up really well last spring. He is a guy the team feels good about having the ball in his hand. He was kind of a 5th inning and on type reliever. He could fill a lot of roles on this team. He could close or do the same role as last year. Obviously, he is one of our most talented pitchers, one of our best arms. He has been in bigger moments than anybody on the team, even A. J. (Alan Johnson). I think the coaching staff feels ok with giving Jamie a chance to start. I talked to Jamie about that. And Jamie and I don't have any idea what to expect because he has never started here."
After seeing him pitch this fall, I see him as your Friday night pitcher.
"That is probably what we are leaning toward. We'll give him that job and see what happens. If we start losing games out of the pen, then there may be some decisions made where we put him back in the pen. Sometimes, getting those first 15 to 18 outs are easier than getting those last 9 outs, believe it or not."
Freshman Trent Hill
"Trent is very projectable. He came in a little behind because of some elbow tenderness. We rehabed him and got him back on track. He actually finished the last two outings in the fall hitting 88 to 90 with his velocity. What impressed me during the recruiting process was he was a dual-position player who always brought this good slider to the table. He would always show flashes of good velocity. His body will allow him to be a 90's (miles per hour) guy with a plus slider in a couple of years. He is kind of like Jamie as a freshman."
Junior Alan Johnson
"You look at last year's games. In the games where we played defense and he got through the second inning, he dominated. If you could get him through those first two or three innings and get him on a roll, he cruised. The two games he pitched against LSU were two of the best pitched games that I have seen in my career. His breaking ball command is so good it makes his fastball look like it is overpowering. And it has never been overpowering. But this fall, his velocity started to sneak up. We are trying to get him stronger so that he can maintain his normal stuff in the stretch.
"The plans for A. J. is the same as last year, the top three in the rotation. Probably in the same role as last year, the Saturday pitcher."
Freshman Josh Johnson
"He is a true freshman. He is probably as good of a true freshman as you will find in the country. I don't want to put pressure on Josh, but he dominated just about every outing except for one of the Banana Split games.
"I think his strength is his good arm. Even when he is right down the middle of the plate, he has the ability to get guys out. That is what velocity does for you. However, the problem that can create is do you have enough pitchability to get outs when you don't have that velocity. Josh is not at that stage yet. Very few freshmen are. Because of his velocity, he is a potential pro prospect."
I had his velocity in the low 90's in the fall.
"Yeah, it was about that.
"Because his changeup is something that he really had never had to use, we kind of force fed it this fall, even at times when you shouldn't throw it. Every outing, we had him throw it 10 to 15% of the time. He did that and got hit at times, but I really wasn't worried because he was doing stuff that needed to be done.
"I think he has a chance to start some midweek games as a freshman. I think that is the safest way to use Josh. Maybe, by the second half of the season, he shows us enough savvy and confidence so that we can put him in a big moment of a game on the weekend.
"He has a chance to be a very special player here."
Senior Jeff Lacher
"This is kind of his pitching staff this year. He was voted one of the team captains. With him being a 5th year senior - the only senior on the staff - that puts him in a special role.
"What he did last year during the midweek games had a lot to do with us hosting a regional. He went out there on Tuesdays and got the ball rolling. Then, he won a chance to pitch in the weekend rotation and he took advantage of it. He pitched well.
"The outing that showed me that Jeff had grown up and was ready to battle was the outing at New Orleans where we had an hour and fifteen rain delay, then another forty minute rain delay. We had two delays and he came back from both delays and actually threw just as good or better. That was his competitive nature. Once we took the lead and had the rain delay, he wasn't going to let them back in the game. That showed me that Jeff had turned the corner.
"He has become more of a pitcher than a thrower. His development of his changeup has helped. He has good work habits. He has fun at practice but also gets his work done.
"I think he is a perfect (SEC rotation) Sunday guy."
Freshman Justin Pigott
"He really impressed the coaching staff and the players this fall. He just about ranked among everybody's top ten. He is not a high velocity type pitcher but his fastball kinds of sneaks up on you. He is a very smart kid with the way he attacks hitters. He knows how he figures in the defense. He has been in some big games since Picayune High School has played in some state championship games. He showed us that he might be ready in some capacity to help us very early in his career here. He may contribute a little this year. We have to get some lefthanded help out of the bullpen this year. That might be a role for Justin this year. Out of the four freshmen lefthanders we are so excited about, he probably had the best fall, start to finish."
Junior Saunders Ramsey
"Saunders had a good fall. Actually, his command of his fastball was the highest, percentage-wise, of anybody's this fall. So, he is getting comfortable with the new delivery. It has taken about a year, a year and a half. I don't know if he will ever be a hard thrower. He will probably pitch in the same type role this year as he did last year. He gets people out because he continues to pound the strike zone. He is not going to walk you. If you keep the pressure on the hitters all the time, then most of the time those type pitchers have success. Saunders is the kind of guy that does that. He fields his position well. He holds runners well. He does everything you want a reliever to do. He can be a setup guy and the ability to close games might also be there. He probably doesn't have the strikeout capabilities you would like in a true closer, but if the situation called for it and the matchups were right, he could close some games. If you have five or six righthanders hitters in a row and we have a three-run lead in the 8th inning, he might be a guy that can finish that game."
Freshman Mike Valentine
"Mike had a solid fall. He made the club last year as a walk-on. I guess the biggest development in Mike is he has learned how to use his stuff. He has good movement on his stuff. He throws 85 to 86. He pitched down very well this fall. When he pitches down in the strike zone, he is very tough to hit. Our hitters ranked him pretty good as far as a guy that is tough for them to hit. He and A. J. were the only two guys that didn't really have a bad outing the whole fall.
"He is probably a pitcher that will contribute in the background every year he is here. He may emerge as a midweek starter some day. He might be that guy that we give a chance to get his feet wet this fall and see how he progresses. We are very excited about him."
Freshman Andy Wilson
"He doesn't throw hard but he has a good breaking ball. It breaks pretty late. He was a reliever on his high school team in Columbus, Georgia. They basically put Andy in the bullpen for their playoff stretch run last year. He pitched in 12 of their last 15 games as a closer. Because of being in that kind of program, he has a lot of pitching maturity. The thing our lefthanded hitters talk about is how good his curveball is. If we can get his fastball velocity to creep up, he has a chance to be a starter here some day."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org