A Q&A With Assistant Coach Butch Thompson

Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson talks about the MSU pitching staff. This is the fourth of a five-part series of interviews with the MSU baseball coaches.

Justin Bussey
"Justin Bussey is a two-way guy for us. He went six outings for us this fall before he allowed a baserunner to first base. What we did specifically with Justin will probably carry through to January and into the season. We threw him three outs at a time. He is one of the guys who we feel like we know what his role is, being a dual guy who will get three outs for us. And he excelled at that. I actually thought he got a little fatigued at the end of the fall. He's not a big, strong guy and flexibility is an issue with him. And we've been working on that over the course of the last month."

Forrest Moore
"He was thrown into the fire last year. He had some really good moments this fall, but I still think there are a couple of things that he has to work on. He's a potential rotation guy for us. He's a potential lefthanded starter for us. January is such a key for Forrest. I still think we have some adjustments to do with him attacking more. He's got to be more aggressive with his fastball. That is sort of the theme to his whole world going into January. He has a great curveball and loves it, but I think to be a starter in the SEC and get us legitimately to the sixth and seventh innings he has to commit to a little more attack and fastball development."

Tyler Whitney
"Tyler had an up and down fall, but he did show some flashes. I really think he has a fastball/changeup. The curveball is still a work in progress. Tyler can consistently throw with his changeup, and have some success with his changeup. And he showed some ability to compete with his fastball. But getting down to what we call quality height level, spinning the baseball consistently and throwing low quality strikes is still something that Tyler needs to do to solidify a sincere role on our pitching staff."

Chad Crosswhite
"Chad Crosswhite sort of emerged as our leader. Why I don't have a problem with Chad leading us is because he always does a good job of knowing when to keep us light and when to be serious. He has never crossed that line for me.

"It could go either way for Chad as a starter or reliever. He could really solidify a bullpen, but I can't count him out for the rotation due to his experience. But I hope we will be good enough so that he can solidify our bullpen when he can handle any role for us."

Michael Busby
"Michael Busby's height level has been huge. That's added a lot of value to him. I think he's learned to battle more this fall. He's starting to come into his own, but we still need January and the first part of February to see what role he solidifies. I would love to see him as a starter. I have a lot of confidence in him. I just wish he had as much confidence in himself as I have in him and as his teammates have in him."

Why is height level a key to Michael?
"Michael is a guy who doesn't have a lot of movement on his pitches. So, when the ball gets up, it's going into the gaps. When he throws it down, it beats bats when guys have to go down to hit it."

Jared Koon
"Jared has been up and down health-wise. He had a little bit of a shoulder (problem) toward the end of the fall. But he showed me a couple of flashes during the middle of the fall. We added a split-finger (pitch) to his repertoire. But health will be the biggest question mark with Jared. If he is healthy leading into the season and if he could pick up where he was at in the middle of the fall, I think he could add some value to our pitching staff."

Ricky Bowen
"Ricky Bowen, coming out of the fall, is probably our number one starter going into the spring. He does spin the fastball better than anybody else on our staff. He has that desired height level when he finishes at the plate. His breaking ball has come along a little bit. He's always had a good changeup. I thought he attacked hitters with his fastball. He threw 72% strikes for us in the fall."

Devin Jones
"Devin Jones is the freshman from Eupora. I like everything about him. I thought his fall was about as consistent as anybody. I thought Devin, day in, day out, was himself as much as anybody on our staff. He has a good fastball. He has a good, competitive slider. He has two legitimate pitches at this point. I feel like he throws enough strikes. During the Bulldog World Series, we brought him back on short rest and he didn't look great. I don't know if that was due to the end of the fall or because he's not a guy who can bounce back on short rest. He's still competing for a starter's spot."

Devin has a good arm, and his velocity should increase. Does he have the potential to be a strikeout pitcher? I ask that because he wasn't really a strikeout pitcher during the fall.
"I think he will when he develops into his own. His stuff is not to the point where it is swing and miss type stuff. He was 89-90 (miles per hour with his fastball) in the fall. In post-fall I think he threw a little bit harder. He has a low-90s arm and that is what got him drafted. And he's got more (velocity) in there."

Paxton Pace
"Paxton Pace just had another surgical procedure for a bone spur that redeveloped. It really had nothing to do with pitching, but how his body is developed. The middle of March is the expected date for him to come back. I don't think we can look for him to add any value to the staff until the middle of March. I think at best what is most probably for him is getting him in the mix toward the end of our season in the bullpen."

David Hayes
"David Hayes is the freshman lefthanded pitcher from Homewood. He threw 68% strikes. When somebody throws a high level percentage of strikes, I want people to know because I think at some point that leads to success. He got hit pretty hard this fall. So, we are working on the breaking ball."

Jared Wesson
"Jared Wesson's health has been such an issue for him we weren't sure if he would be able to throw again. We dropped his (arm slot) down. His command became a huge issue, loss of confidence. He would throw real hard one day, then throw real soft the next day. In post-fall we went back up with arm slot. And he's throwing really well. He went an entire month with no pain. So, we are going to go with the higher slot. And whatever happens in January happens."

Nick Routt
"Nick Routt is a freshman from Washington. He spins the fastball really well. What I mean by that is he has good finish on his fastball. It's an 84-85-86 (miles per hour) fastball. When he was throwing really well in the fall, the guys really struggled against it. His changeup is competitive. But the breaking ball still needs some work. Or, we need to use it sparingly. He throws from a lower slot, which is not conducive for a good breaking ball anyway."

Caleb Reed
"Caleb is my Bulldog. I really want Caleb to get an opportunity to help us in the bullpen because I think he is our type pitching system. He got hit really hard early in the fall. We made an adjustment from a two-seam to a four-seam fastball and he kept coming at people. He has a sincere second pitch. He has a good, competitive fastball and he has a very competitive breaking ball. So, he has two pitches. And his feet are great. His picks to first are really good, so he has a chance to control the running game."

Lee Swindle
"Lee Swindle continues to see Dr. Linton. He's up and down. I'm going to put him in the same category as Jared Koon. If he's healthy he has a chance to help us. If he's not, then I don't know. I want him to be in the mix in the bullpen. He has some sink on his fastball, which makes him a little bit different. He also has a slider."

Drew Hollinghead
"Drew Hollinghead is another guy who threw a ton of strikes, probably close to 70%. He has a good head on his shoulders and is one of my favorite players to coach. His stuff is not at the top 10% to 20% of our pitching staff. He knows that. So, we are trying to figure out other ways for him to make it work. He is such a system guy, he's not going to go out and beat himself. Against him, somebody will have to perform, to hit him."

Tyler Johnson
"Tyler Johnson is a freshman from Hewitt-Trussville. He had a good fall. He has the Lee Swindle type sink on his fastball which gives guys fits. He throws strikes. We are going to continue to train him as a starter. I think he just needs to get stronger. I am very curious to see his January and February because he was competitive. Every rough moment he had, he replaced it and righted the ship. He will be the next freshman that will have an opportunity to have an impact. How healthy we stay will determine how big of a role he will have as a freshman."

Greg Houston
"Greg Houston, much like Wesson, we tried to teach a split-finger to. I do love his fastball. I believe he can throw it at the height level we want and I think he can throw it to both sides of the plate. And that is a huge, huge deal for guys to figure out. The way we can add value to Greg is by adding some type of second pitch. I don't think we wasted our entire fall, but I don't think we have conquered it yet either. We have two more months to figure out a second pitch or how to protect his fastball. I think his fastball is go to go. He's ready to get us six outs in the bullpen."

Sunday - John Cohen talks about the middle infielders and the third basemen.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the 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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