Saturday's (10-11) Baseball Practice Notes

Under crystal clear skies at Sunken Diamond this afternoon, the 2004 Stanford baseball team began their fall practice season. Most noteably, today's practice featured an intrasquad game with a few noteworthy pitchers on the hill. See which returnee led the way on the mound along with which freshman hurler sparkled in his debut. Also, check out all the position player notes.

It was a beautiful day out at Sunken Diamond this afternoon as the 2004 Stanford baseball team began their fall practice season.  After three weeks of individual workouts, the coaches and players were ready to get down to business as the team took part in batting practice, defensive drills, and an intrasquad game.  Here are some notes, first starting with the pitchers:

The two expected horses of the staff in Mark Romanczuk and Matt Manship started on the hill.  Each was to throw four innings apiece on a ten-pitch per inning basis.  It also appeared that all the pitchers that threw today were only going with their fastball and change-up.  In Romanczuk's four innings, he retired six batters, allowed three hits, and one run.  For the most part, he was locating his pitches, although he did walk three compared to two strikeouts.  One other thing to note was that each batter was starting with a 1-and-1 count, so the walk and strikeout numbers were probably a bit inflated today.

Back to Romanczuk, the sophomore lefty was clocked in the 84-to-89 MPH range.  I personally thought he looked good especially considering he wasn't using that trademark big curve ball of his.  If the change-up continues to improve, Romanczuk is going to have a huge year.

Manship was the pitching star this afternoon.  The sophomore righthander set down 14 batters in his four innings of work (he completed some of Romanczuk's innings which is why he retired over three batters per inning on average).  The high number of outs shows that Manship was being very efficient with his pitches.  He surrendered only one run on two hits while walking just one and striking out five.  Manship was throwing about as hard as Romanczuk was with his fastball sitting in the 85-to-90 range.  All in all, a very encouraging outing for the 6'5" Texan.

The other two pitchers that saw time on the hill were a pair of newcomers to the program in Blake Holler and Greg Reynolds.  The first thing that comes to mind when you see Holler is how lanky the southpaw is.  The Indiana native is 6'4", but weighs just 165 lbs.  I see Holler being more of a finesse pitcher as his fastball was coming in consistently in the mid 80's while occasionally hitting the upper 80's.  He had some control issues at times, but after two walks, for example, Holler would come back with a perfect pitch at the knees on the black to get a ground ball.  I see a lot of Tim Cunningham in Holler in that he won't blow anyone away with his fastball, but is someone who should be able to set up the heat with his offspeed stuff.  He showed a good change-up and I'm anxious to see what kind of breaking stuff he has.  In his four innings, Holler retired eight batters and allowed six runs on five hits.  He walked three, hit a batter, and struck out one. 

Finally, the much anticipated debut of Greg Reynolds.  Reynolds is an imposing presence on the mound at 6'7" (may be a little generous) and 220 lbs.  Reynolds is wearing the number 20 this year and let me just say that there's a little different type of body in that uniform this year as opposed to the last four with Ryan McCally.

Reynolds began his outing with a bang.  He struck out Ryan Seawell and Josh Corn to start the inning, allowed a ringing single to right off the bat of Jonny Ash, and then struck out Ben Summerhays to retire the side.  In his second inning of work, Reynolds allowed a hit to Chris Lewis, but also struck out Lewis in that same frame.  He then worked a scoreless third inning with one walk and one strike out.  An interesting at-bat in that inning came with Reynolds going up against Sam Fuld.  Fuld worked the count full, and then Reynolds fired a low-and-inside fastball that was called either just inside or just low.  A very close pitch, but the call goes to the senior.

Reynolds' fourth and final inning of work saw him run into some trouble and is it appeared he got a little sloppy with his location.  Reynolds faced just three batters in the inning (as he reached his ten-pitch limit) and gave up a single into left field off the bat of Chris Minaker, a line drive triple to deep right center field to John Mayberry, Jr., and a line drive triple down the right field line to Jed Lowrie.  Welcome to college baseball, Mr. Reynolds.

Still, it was a very encouraging outing, one that caught the attention of many scouts in the crowd.  Reynolds retired a total of seven batters, allowed five hits, two runs, walked one, and struck out five.  He was consistently throwing the hardest of the four pitchers that threw today as his range was from 85-90, but he was mainly sitting at 88 and 89 MPH.

Now the hitters.  No one player had a standout day (no home runs), but the offense was spread around nicely.  Multi-hit games came from Brian Hall who went 2-for-2 with a big two-run double to the left center power alley.  Jonny Ash also had two hits as he finished 2-for-4 with a couple of textbook Jonny Ash line drive singles into the outfield.  Danny Putnam hit a couple of balls very hard.  The junior outfielder went 1-for-3 with a line drive single to center and a hard smash to first that was knocked down by Mayberry.

The two freshman hitters that caught my eye this afternoon were Jim Rapoport and Adam Sorgi.  Rapoport went 1-for-3 with a double and a very impressive double at that.  Facing Romanczuk, Rapoport fought off everything Romanczuk was throwing up there, worked the count full, and then lined a double down the left field line.  A very impressive at-bat.  Sorgi went 1-for-2 with a single and two walks.  This was a guy who appeared to not be afraid to hit with two strikes as he was patient at the plate and also was fighting off a lot of tough pitches. 

* Mayberry, Jr. looks to have changed his batting stance somewhat.  The towering righthander was hitting with an open stance at the plate and hit some balls very hard this afternoon.

* Some infield defense notes: Donny Lucy, John Hester, and freshman Josh Corn were the three players that saw time behind the dish.  Mayberry, Jr. and Ben Summerhays split time at first base.  Many different players played second base, shortstop, and third base.  Chris Lewis played all three.  Sorgi played second and short.  Joe Ayers only at shortstop.  Minaker and Ash at second and third while Lowrie played only shortstop.  Things to note here include Brian Hall not playing any infield and also the versatility Coach Marquess wants to have from all his infielders.

* As for the outfield: No surprise to see Fuld manning center field.  Rapoport played both in center and right.  One interesting development saw Putnam playing exclusively in right field.  I saw a lot of this during the individual workouts the past few weeks, so it appears the coaching staff is seriously looking at Putnam in right.  Hall played a lot of time in left field along with freshman Ryan Seawell.  Fellow freshman Ryan Kissick played some in right.

* Chris Carter doesn't look to be 100%.  The junior outfielder participated in batting practice and hit his usual towering blasts over the fence, but he was not playing in the field at all during the game, and was not running the bases (he went 0-for-3 at the plate).  Coach Marquess was working hard with Carter during BP to take balls to the opposite field, something Carter certainly needs to do to become more of a complete hitter.

* In case you haven't noticed, there are quite a few more position players on the roster this year.  20, in fact.  This made it so there were fewer at-bats to go around during the intrasquad game (players some anywhere from two to five AB's today), but there are plenty of bodies around in case of injuries.

* Cameron Matthews, a team manager the last two seasons, was a given a spot on the roster this year.  He played some in left field this afternoon.

* You won't see Rapoport leave Fuld's side very often during drills.  I'm sure it's by design, but the younger Rapoport appears to learning everything he possibly can from the senior Fuld.  In addition, watching Rapoport take batting practice, he definitely has the power to take the ball out of the yard to right and right center field.

* The leadoff hitters in the four hitting groups during the intrasquad game: Ash, Fuld, Rapoport, and Sorgi.

* Faces in the crowd included former Stanford All-Americans Carlos Quentin and Jeremy Guthrie.

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