Fall Baseball Notebook

With fall ball close to halfway complete, go inside for a notebook about Jake Morgan, Rebel defense and roster changes for the upcoming season.

Bittle not only positive Sunday

While Scott Bittle stole the Sunday pitching headlines this past week, Jake Morgan also pitched for the first time since stretching/partially tearing his UCL (Tommy John) during the summer with the Columbia Blowfish.

Morgan was effective and topped his fastball out at 92 MPH during the brief workout. Signs are positive that the right-hander may be able to avoid surgery, as the coaching staff is using caution and taking no risks.

"He's followed the plan and seems to be responding really well," Mike Bianco said. "Nothing is definite, but there haven't been any hiccups lately. If those happen, then surgery is an option, but we hope it all keeps progressing. This weekend was a good sign.

"Fastball in the 90s and a slider in the low 80s, that's Jake."

Morgan turned into one of the Rebels' most reliable arms last season, and his health could very well play a role in how Bittle is used in 2009 as well. Losing Morgan to surgery would be a devastating loss, considering he is one of the team's best at locating all pitches and working out of jams.

Web gems wanted

Ole Miss got away from playing stellar defense last season, so Bianco has reached into his old bag of tricks for a little motivation.

The Rebels are competing daily for a yellow practice jersey that is awarded to the player that has the best defensive practice. After winning the unique jersey, the player gets the honor of wearing it the next day. The idea was used earlier in Bianco's tenure before being discontinued a few years back.

"Kind of like the Tour de France, it is our Tour de Defense," Bianco said. "We didn't catch it very well last year, so maybe this will put an extra emphasis on that part of the game. The guys like it, and it is a little added element to our day."

Cuts bring extra competition

The NCAA has reduced roster sizes for the upcoming season, and Ole Miss' practices are more competitive because of the change.

The Rebels currently have 39 players on roster, but that number must be cut to 35 by opening day. The situation has resulted in fall practice gaining some added intensity.

"I think it definitely increases how everybody performs," Irwin said. "There is a lot of hustle going on, and in a way, it is making practice better. Nobody wants to get cut and we don't want to see others get cut. It's just the new rules. You can't do anything about it."

The new NCAA guidelines mandate that the roster have a maximum of 35 players and only 30 of those players on scholarship. Each scholarship player must receive at least 25 percent aid.

Roster revision

Not including signing professional contracts or running out of eligibility, the following players are no longer with the Ole Miss baseball team: Sean Stuyverson, Yogi Gunther, Garrett Duff, Josh Thomason and Kevin Parker.

Number changes include: Evan Button moving from 14 to 2, David Goforth from 28 to 7 and David Kindred from 47 to 28.

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