Nine for Nine

With two eventful weekends in the books, and a big series against defending national champions Texas up next, Stanford Baseball is in full swing. A myriad of questions beg for answers, as we wade our way through a Cardinal roster shuffled with many new faces. We sat down with head coach Mark Marquess after Wednesday's JV game to ask nine of the more intriguing questions on his players and team.

Which was more representative of this team - the sweep of Cal State Fullerton or the series loss to Kansas?

You know, the funny thing is we didn't hit the ball very well against Fullerton.  We won 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, 6-5 in the bottom of the 10th, and 6-3.  We didn't get many hits.  We pitched great.  Played great defense.  The difference was Kansas hit better than Fullerton!  The truth of the matter is that they had an older team - a lot of seniors, especially position players.  We got four hits Friday, four hits Saturday, and they hit better than Fullerton did.  So I think it's the same team.  From Kansas, people didn't expect that, but there is so much parity in college baseball now.  If you don't play well on a given weekend, there is not anybody on our schedule who won't beat us.  To a certain extent, that is true of Texas.  Texas goes to San Diego, which is a good team, and gets swept because they don't play well.  And everybody is ready to play Texas; they're excited.  Kansas - they see us on their schedule, and it's a big deal.  It's the same team - we just faced a better hitting team the second weekend, and we hit worse.  Michael Taylor did well against Fullerton, and I hope there's not very often that Michael Taylor goes oh-for-the-weekend.  We're not going to win very much.  I think it's the same team.

What is the disappointment for you in losing Adam Sorgi?  How does it hurt?

It hurts.  You can't dwell on it.  That's part of the game.  We can feel sorry for ourselves because he was our leading hitter from last year.  Our leading hitter, and he played first base.  Now we're going to play young at third base.  A young player, a freshman player, is going to make mistakes.  You can't get mad - it's just a freshman.  Hopefully by May, they won't be freshmen anymore.  It hurts, but you have to go on.  That's part of it.  Hopefully you don't get too many more.  The good thing is that he was fixed and will be alright for next year.  But we can't have him this year.  We want him back, but we have to make do with what we have.  And we will.

You probably did not expect Chris Lewis (.105), Chris Minaker (.208) and John Hester (.182) - your seniors - to be hitting like this, did you?

I'll be more concerned in about three weeks if it's the same way.  No, you don't.  If you are where you want to be at the end of the year, your older players have had probably their best year.  If you look at last year versus the year before: Jed Lowrie has his best year as his sophomore year, probably his worst year relative last year.  Same thing for [John] Mayberry.  When you look at the teams that have done really well, the [Ryan] Garko's, the [Danny] Putnam's have had their best year their junior year or their senior year.  You can panic about it and make too much about it.  I don't want to make too much of a big deal out of it because I think baseball is kind of a streaky thing.  It's like shooting in basketball.  There is so much confidence involved.  Once you get too paranoid about it - 'Oh no, I am not making my three-point shots.'  That's a lot like hitting.  The other thing is that it's contagious.  Once a couple guys get it, then it seems like everybody relaxes and they break out a little bit.  Now, does that mean we just say: relax and have a good time?  No.  That's what your mother tells you when you're not doing well.  'Relax and have a good time, Johnny.  Everything will be fine.'  We're not relaxing and having a good time.  We're working extra, doing extra drills and trying to do some things in practice that can help us.  And guys are working hard at it.  I'm not panicked yet with it, but obviously we need to improve with the bat.

Are you surprised at the number of freshmen who are ready and able to contribute to you this fast in this class?

Yeah, this is a good class.  We knew we had a good class, but this is better than we thought.  We have some guys who can play and are not afraid to play - not intimidated.  They may strike out or make an out, but they're not going to do it because they're afraid.  And we have a lot of guys who haven't gotten in there yet who can do that.  That's good.  And I've been very pleased with the pitchers.  Coach [Tom] Kunis has done a great job.  Our pitching numbers are fantastic.  We have five times as many strike outs as walks.  That's pretty impressive.  We're very pleased with that, and I think that's why we're 4-2 when we haven't hit a lick.  We've pitched very well.  I'm a little concerned defensively, losing Sorgi.  We've been real good defensively, so we're going to make a few more errors with freshmen in there.  And we've moved Lewis back into second base.  We have to get him more used to that.  That's his natural position, but he didn't play there last year - he played in left [field].  But our pitching has been very good.

Specifically - Jeremy Bleich.  You've used him four times in six games already.  What inspires that confidence in him for you?

Poise.  Obviously, he's got good stuff.  He has three pitches he can throw for strikes.  But he doesn't shake.  You can bring a freshman in, and he can go woo-woo-woo [undulating hand motion].  You can lose him for a month, or a year, if he loses his confidence.  He doesn't shake.  He showed that in practice, but you don't know until they get out there.  You don't know how they respond until they get hit.

Your two-way freshmen - how long do you continue to work them both ways?  Do you commit soon to one position?

That's a good question.  That's a good question.  You know what?  I think they're both competitive enough and good enough that I don't think I can give up with them in pitching.  They're both going to be very good.  Obviously, [Austin] Yount is already playing at third.  But [Sean] Ratliff can play in the outfield.  Now, Ratliff's arm doesn't bounce back as well as Yount.  Yount can throw three or four innings and then go out and play.  Ratliff needs a little more rest, and he's an outfielder   When he pitches, he's a little more sore.  I couldn't play him in the outfield after he pitched.  My biggest concern is to watch their arm - the health of their arm.  But I can't give up on either one of those guys as a pitcher.  If I would give up anything, it would be as a pitcher.  But they're too competitive.

Because of the freshmen and the overall depth you have in your pitching staff, does that allow you to go to the bullpen earlier in a game this year as compared to other years?

Yeah.  Or, if I don't play you on the weekend, play in an intersquad game.  I want those guys to pitch.  A lot of times, I'll have intersquad games here with umpires, so that it's more game-like.  I want those pitchers to pitch competitively, at least once a week - everybody.  It's good for the guys who aren't getting at-bat's, too.  Get them more at-bat's.  So, yeah, I will.  I think you have to make yourself use them.  That's hard to do sometimes because it may cost you a game.  But in the long run, it's probably the best thing to do.  And I'll platoon a lot, whether it's a left- or right-hander.  Not because it makes a heck of a lot of difference.  Because it gives me an excuse to play another couple of guys.  That's one thing that we've decided as a coaching staff that we need to do that more.  Last year, we caught John Hester almost every game.  We're not going to do that this year.  We don't have to do that.  Last year we did.  He'll be fresher at the end [of the year], and we'll be able to do some things because we have some depth.  And it makes for better practices, more competition.  The older guys know that if they stub their toe, there is some young kid who wants to take their job.  And the older guys are good about that.  It makes you better.

Speaking of the catcher position, when do you expect Brent Milleville to round back into the shape that we saw during fall ball?

He's better.  He caught today a little bit today in our intersquad game.  He's getting better.  He can catch.  He's an athlete who can play first base.  He's not right now where he was offensively in the fall, but that's not surprising.  He'll be a really good player, as [Jason] Castro will.  Castro has played very well for us.  You will see him as a young player on a given day strike out a couple times and look god-awful.  Next time up, he'll hit two home runs.  He's going to be a player.  He just can't get too down on himself.  And when he's struggling, I'll sit him down.  That's the other thing - I don't have to let him suffer.  I don't have to play him - because there's nobody else to put in there - three games and strike out nine times.  If he strikes out three times in one game, I can sit him down for a day.  Let him watch a little bit, slow things down.  Then bring him back again.  I don't have to kill him.  It's like with the pitchers - if they're getting their brains beat out, I can bring another guy in there.  It's different; it's nice.  You have a lot more flexibility.  And it's better for the team because everybody gets a chance to contribute a little bit. 

Matt Manship - can you guys figure out how to put in a bottle his first three innings and get that from him in the fourth inning and beyond?

That's a good question.  That's the thing that we wonder.  Our job is to put the guy in a position where he can be the most successful, and you need to find out what that is.  That's what we're still trying to evaluate.  It's not as critical as a starter right now because you're probably only going five or six innings, anyway.  But a month from now, that starter might go seven or eight.  Then, who is the best guy to do that?  Who's the best guy to come in?  Obviously, if Manship is most effective for three innings, and after three innings he is not effective, then we will have to change his role.  Bleich?  We're not sure of Bleich's role yet.  Obviously he can do it in relief, but would he be a great starter?  Could he go six or seven?  I don't know that yet.  [Nolan] Gallagher pitched well last time out.  Is that strictly as relief, or could he start?  We'll extend him and he'll go four or five innings in maybe one of the outings he does on a weekend.  These are the things we have to determine.  Especially, we are not sure of the freshmen.  Ratliff came in and pitched really well in relief.  Could he start, or is he strictly in relief?  We don't know yet.  Yount - are we going to start?  We don't know yet.  Who knows what we can do.  That's why we are playing these games and playing good people.  A lot of times, you play somebody who's not very good, and think, 'Wow, we're pretty good.'  Yeah, you look pretty good because of the caliber of your competition.  That's not our case.  We've got our hands full.  We have Texas, now.  Hey, the weakest team that was on our schedule the first six weekends was Kansas, and they beat us two-out-of-three at home!  That was the weakest one.  That was our weak sister on the schedule.  Now we've got Texas.  Then we go to Fresno State, who is playing really well and is tough to beat at Fresno.  Then we have Cal at Cal.  Then we go to USC.  Poor scheduling.  I don't know how I scheduled it that way, but we've got the last 10 on the road [before Pac-10 play].


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