Fall Ball: 10/26 Practice Notes

On paper, pitching figures to be the strength of this year's Stanford Baseball team. Through almost two weeks of fall practice, this appears to be the case with numerous hurlers putting forth solid performances in intrasquad games. Read on for notes on today's contest that includes a breakout performance from a freshman right-hander.

Tuesday's intrasquad game was identical to Monday's contest with two teams matching up against each other (Cardinal vs. White) and four separate pitchers seeing time on the hill.  It was a pitching-dominated affair with all four hurlers enjoying tremendous success.

Sophomore Greg Reynolds and junior Matt Manship earned the starting calls today.  Reynolds continues to impress this fall as the 6'7" right-hander tossed four quality innings with two earned runs allowed on four hits.  He was in complete control the entire outing as Reynolds did not walk a single batter compared to a whopping six strike outs (hitters are still starting each AB with a 1-1 count).  The lone earned runs scored against him were on a Jed Lowrie double down the right field line and a Brian Juhl infield single to first.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Reynolds' performance today was the curve ball he showed.  It was easily the best I've ever seen him throw that pitch as it baffled opposing hitters (especially the righties) with a sharp downward break.  Outside of the control problems Reynolds had in his first fall appearance, this has thus far been a very encouraging handful of outings for this rising star.

Manship also came through with a very solid outing.  Not quite as overpowering as Reynolds, but equally as effective, Manship surrendered just three hits and one earned run in his five innings.  The Texas native got stronger as the game went on retiring the final nine batters he faced with ease.  Manship has a really hard slider that when it's on is very difficult to hit.  I would categorize him as more of a finesse pitcher who can and will pick up some strikeouts, but you know he's on his game when he's inducing lots of ground balls and is able to retire hitters on a minimum of pitches.

Sophomore Jeff Stimpson and freshman Erik Davis also threw in the game today.   Stimpson had been quite impressive in his first two appearances of the fall season and today was no different.  In four of his five innings pitched today, Stimpson was practically unhittable (one hit and no runs).  Plenty of strikes for Stimpson as well as he did not walk a single batter this afternoon compared to six punchouts.  His only hiccup came in his second inning of work when he was tagged for three runs on three very hard hit balls.  However, it should be noted that the three offensive players who got to Stimpson were Chris Minaker, Jed Lowrie, and John Hester - the top three hitters on the team this fall and a threesome that is absolutely hammering the ball right now.  Stimpson did finish with a bang as he retired the final ten batters he faced.

Finally, it was a breakout performance for Erik Davis this afternoon.  The freshman has shown improvement in each of his three outings this fall.  Today, Davis fired 5 1/3 scoreless innings with only one hit allowed.  The coaching staff is not allowing any pitcher to throw over 60 pitches right now so the fact Davis was able to pitch into his sixth inning shows you he was on top of his game. 

Overall, Davis walked four batters to go with six strike outs.  Davis had thrown the ball pretty well his first two times out, but today was the first we've seen of Davis where he's been able to dominate the opposition.  The arm angle he comes from can make it very difficult on the hitters and I continue to be impressed by his advanced change-up.  And today the slider was working including one dandy of breaking ball off the outside corner that struck out John Mayberry, Jr. swinging.  With a performance like this, it's hard not to think of Davis being a key contributor on the Cardinal pitching staff this season.

Thus far, the main theme of the fall has to be the extremely strong pitching.  And I've especially been impressed with the improvement being shown by the sophomore hurlers.  Reynolds, Stimpson, Blake Holler, and Matt Leva (who will not throw in a game this fall) all saw significant time on the mound last year as freshmen.  Some of the growing pains each went through (although all four pitched well for a good portion of the season) have to be paying off because the roles of these four pitchers should only increase in 2005.

Reynolds, Stimpson, and Holler are all displaying excellent stuff right now.  Quite frankly, I think any of the three could step in right now and be solid starting pitchers.  Each hurler is averaging at least one strike out per inning this fall and for the most part are in control of all their pitches.  The great thing about this staff is that there are a pair of juniors ahead of these pitchers in Mark Romanczuk and Jeff Gilmore who are ticketed for the 1-2 spots in the starting rotation.  This should result in only one of these sophomore hurlers (or potentially Matt Manship) moving into the starting rotation which will make the Cardinal bullpen that much stronger.  The graduation of David O'Hagan as the team's closer was a significant loss, but from my eyes right now, the quality of depth on the pitching staff this season could be some of the best for Stanford in recent memory.

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Tuesday was a good day for the pitchers, but there were still a handful of hitters that had strong days at the plate.  Using the same teams as yesterday, the Cardinal edged the White 6-5 with the aforementioned threesome of Minaker, Lowrie, and Hester leading the way.  Minaker continues to rip line drives all over the field and in fact connected for a home run to left center off Stimpson in today's game.  Hester smoked a couple of doubles today to deep center (one off the wall) as he finished at 2-for-4 with a couple of RBI's.  Meanwhile, Lowrie also knocked out a couple of hits in his 2-for-4 performance.  The junior second baseman singled, doubled, and also walked three times.

Over on the White team, freshman right fielder Michael Taylor led the way with a 2-for-4 game.  Taylor singled twice today - once off Reynolds and once off Stimpson.  Juhl and Chris Lewis also each notched RBI singles.

The only negative from Tuesday's practice was poor defense on the infield.  It carried over from Monday's game as a few too many balls on the infield were misplayed in addition to a couple of passed balls from the catchers.  Five of the 11 runs scored this afternoon were unearned as a result. 

Up the middle, the Cardinal look very solid defensively with Lowrie and Minaker.  Mayberry, Jr. is an above-average defensive first baseman as he possesses excellent hands and with his tall frame can haul in those high throws.  Third base could be a problem defensively for Stanford.  Chris Lewis looks to have improved his game defensively, but is not quite at the level of a Lowrie or Minaker.  Randy Molina also is playing third base during games and has struggled - primarily with his throws to first, but occasionally with the glove work as well.   The first thing Coach Marquess looks for in his third baseman though is offense.  It's always been a position where he requires production with the bat (as opposed to shortstop where the main objective is defense).  Look for the battle for the third base position this season coming down to who is producing more offensively.

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