Will Power Be His Game?

Junior first baseman Mitch Moreland has always been the type hitter you expected to become a power-hitter on the collegiate level. Will the 2006 season be the year he becomes that consistent power-hitter?

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"You don't see many 6-2, 235-pound slap hitters," said Mitch with a slight chuckle. "I haven't really put up power numbers in the past, but I went to the Cape (Cod League) this (past) summer and tried to swing a little bit harder I guess you could say and look for a pitch to pull. That's one thing I've really worked on - trying to pick out a better pitch for myself instead of trying to hit the pitcher's pitch.

"And I've learned a lot more about the game. When I came in I was kind of raw. I just swung and threw as hard as I could. Now, I have learned more about the mental side of the game such as how to read a pitcher. That's helped me a lot along the way. And I've played with a lot of good players the last couple of years here and during the summer. I played at Danville and in the Cape. I've picked up things from Mississippi State players and players that I've played with during the summer."

While those things have played a big part in his improved power, so has the fact that he's become physically stronger the past two-plus years.

"Our weight coach, Coach (John) McCallister, does a great job with us," noted Mitch, who won the 2006 Cape Cod League's All-Star Game home run derby contest. "I had some baby fat on me when I first came in ... as coach called it."

As you would expect a power-hitter to do, Mitch anticipates hitting in the middle of the lineup, a place he feels very comfortable.

"I will probably play in the 4 or 5 (spot) range," confirmed the career .318 hitter. "That's where I have always hit. That feels comfortable to me."

Mitch, as noted by head man Ron Polk, will start at first base. Although it will be a new position as far as his MSU career is concerned, he's played there the past two summers.

"I haven't made a start at first here, but during this (past) summer that's all I played ... that and DH," explained Mitch, who played in the 2006 Cape Cod League All-State Game this past summer. "And the summer before that, I also played a lot of first base. So, even though I haven't started here, I feel comfortable there because I have started at other places."

Mitch, who will also pitch for Mississippi State, expects his role to be primarily short relief.

"I will probably pitch in short relief, maybe switching up with (Chad) Crosswhite on closing some," noted Mitch, who has a 2-0 career record with a 3.46 earned run average in 9 appearances, all in relief. "They have talked about using us in short relief trying to get three to six outs."

Thanks in large part to MSU pitching coach Russ McNickle, Mitch expects to be a more efficient and reliable pitcher this season.

"Something that Coach (Russ) McNickle has worked with me a lot on is smoothing out my delivery because I was real herky-jerky. I think that's really paid off because it's help stamina-wise," said Mitch. "(In the past) you couldn't tell if I was going to make it through an inning because I would be so wild."

Although not your prototype power-pitching closer, Mitch's fastball has enough action to handle the short relief role.

"I throw in the 87-88 range. On a good day, I might bump it up to 90-91," said Mitch, who also throws a slider and changeup. "People call (my fastball) a heavy ball."

Mississippi State battles Murray State today at Polk-DeMent Stadium in the first game of a three-game weekend series between the two teams. Gametime is 4 p.m.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by 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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