Cohen Talks About 1st Day Of Practice

Mississippi State head baseball coach John Cohen talks about his team's first day of practice, a practice that was done in the Palmeiro Center due to cold and rainy weather.

What are your thoughts about today's practice?
"Today wasn't dramatically different than what we have been doing for a month. We just had more time to do it. We wanted to be outside today and play an intersquad (game). We did the same thing everybody else in America is doing, they are doing first to third plays, doing bunt defense plays. You spend a lot of time on something that represents about 3 to 5% of the game. We've worked so hard on our swings and worked really hard defensively on some individual things. Now, it's time to bring the entire team together and do some team stuff.

"What we really need to do is get some guys on the mound and play some intersquad games. But that's probably not going to happen until Sunday because of the weather.

"I really like our young arms. I like how this whole things is coming together. We have some really skilled guys. We aren't completely where we want to be but I have a strong feeling that 3 to 4 months from now we are going to be a lot better than we are right now. And that is because so many of these guys have not played one inning of SEC baseball."

I've been told that Chad Girodo has come back and really looked good during the first month back from the holidays. What are your thoughts about him?
"He can throw three pitches for strikes. Even though he is not a high velocity guy, he just has a history of not walking people. Your ability to throw a 0-0 breaking ball in the strikezone really changes everything for the hitter at any level, from the big leagues on down. He also has a lot of poise and can control the running game. But he's a freshman. Along with Luke Bole, who was a high school teammate of his, we think they are going to have to log some innings.

"We have nine freshmen and a junior college transfer. Those guys are going to have to share about 250 innings, if everything else comes out the way we want it to. You are going to see a lot of freshmen arms (this year). And you are going to see some failure and some glimpses of something that could be really special also."

You spent a lot of time working on double plays. What range are you trying to get as far as timing when it comes to the double play?
"An average SEC runner is a 4.35 to 4.4, or in that area. What we are trying to do is get our kids internal clock constantly counting to four, so that they always know how much time they have. A phenomenal runner is a 4.0 flat runner. There might be 5 or 6 four flat runners in all of college baseball."

Has Russ Sneed come back and played well during the first month back?
"He is dramatically more agile than he was at this time last year. Russ is not going to be a huge range guy at third base but he's moving with a lot more frequency and with a lot less pain. I feel good about that. And I think he's going to be better.

"One thing about all of our returning guys is that they are all better. You add a pretty good recruiting class together with a group of returning guys who are all better and I think that makes you really positive about what can happen this season."

Have you come up with a list of candidates among the pitchers for SEC games?
"We are going to have three weekends to get that figured. But obviously the guy who jumps out at you is Nick Routt because he has been phenomenal. He had a little bit of a back issue in the summer. And he came back in the fall a little later than most of the other kids. But he has been tremendous. He is much better than he was a year ago.

"Devin Jones has really been good. Our plan right now is to put him in at the end of the game. We had so many issues last year with the last three innings of the game. And we want to put our best arm there this season to try and win more baseball games. And I think he has the type mentality to get guys out at the end of a game.

"In terms of rotation, and after you go by Routt, there is a group of about 5 other guys - Luke Bole, Chad Girodo, Chris Stratton, Tyler Whitney and Corey Collins. Even Trey Johnson could be a guy for one of those spots. C.C. Watson has also been very, very good. But for right now, we feel like for us to win games, we need a dominant lefthanded curveball pitcher in the bullpen for us. We feel the same way about Ben Bracewell. He is a guy who can throw a slider at the end of a game to get a swing and miss when it really matters.

"You hate to say this but we had the worst bullpen in the Southeastern Conference last year. So, we are going to take some of our best arms and put them in that position to help us win baseball games."

Who is backing up Connor Powers at first base?
"Russ Sneed can do it. I think Jet Butler can do it. Trey Johnson might be able to do it. We've tried a lot of guys at first base. But there is no question if something happens to Connor that would really hurt our ballclub. We don't quite have the depth that we want to have everywhere on the field"


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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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