Baseball News And Notes

With the start of the regular season just days away, a number of topics are on the minds of Cardinal baseball fans. In this "News and Notes" feature check out the official word on the weekend starting pitching rotation as a freshman cracks the top three. In addition, read on for notes on injuries, a position change, and much more.

Head coach Mark Marquess has officially announced his starting pitching rotation for the opening weekend at Cal State Fullerton with junior right-hander Nolan Gallagher getting the ball Friday night against Titans All-American Wes Roemer.  On Saturday evening it will be freshman Jeff Inman making his collegiate debut.  Meanwhile, Sunday is still officially "TBA," but the expectation is that sophomore left-hander Jeremy Bleich will start assuming he isn't needed out of the bullpen earlier in the weekend.

Gallagher has some big shoes to fill with the departure of last year's ace Greg Reynolds to the professional ranks.  Reynolds, the second overall pick in last year's draft, won seven games last season, worked a team-high 127 2/3 innings, and pitched his best down the stretch as the Cardinal made their run to the NCAA Tournament.

Gallagher has made ten career starts in a Stanford uniform over the previous two seasons.  As a freshman, the Montana native made 23 overall appearances totaling 55 innings and compiled a stellar 2.93 ERA.  That year, Gallagher's work in the starting rotation came during the pre-Pac-10 portion of the schedule.

Last year, Gallagher started the season out of the bullpen before joining the starting rotation full-time in May.  All total, Gallagher made six starts and 22 overall appearances as a sophomore totaling 65 innings.  He went 5-5 with a solid 3.99 ERA.

Gallagher features a fastball primarily in the upper 80's (can touch 90) with a knee-buckling curve ball that is effective against both righties and lefties.  He's incredibly polished and with a big year could make himself into a top-three round draft pick this June. 

It's a mild surprise to see Inman's name in the starting rotation this opening weekend just because the hard-throwing righty is a freshman.  Based on his performances during Fall Ball and the preseason though, it shouldn't shock anyone that the coaching staff wants Inman to start right off the bat.  Combining both practice games in October and January, Inman was probably the best pitcher on the team.  He's the hardest thrower on the club with a fastball that sits in the low 90's and can top out at 95.  Inman also dazzles with a couple of different secondary pitches. 

A native of Bakersfield, Inman could have been a top-five round draft pick last year if not for his strong commitment to the Farm.  Instead, he was taken in the 19th round by the Kansas City Royals, but turned down their offer to attend Stanford.  In addition to his pro-quality stuff, Inman is also incredibly poised on the mound - something not often seen with freshman pitchers.  Because of this, the coaching staff clearly thinks he can handle a starting role against top-flight competition early in the season.  Inman has future ace pitcher written all over him.

Sunday's starting spot is still up in the air, but Bleich is clearly ready to join the rotation full-time if needed.  After a solid freshman campaign (24 appearances, 7 starts, 4-4, 4.05 ERA, 7 saves), Bleich dominated as a starter last summer in the Cape Cod League earning All-Star honors.  Statistically, he was also the best pitcher on the team during preseason intrasquads.  Bleich possesses a fastball in the high 80's with an excellent curve ball and change-up.  He's remarkably poised on the mound and is quickly moving up the draft charts for 2008.

Bleich excelled as a closer for Stanford during the first half of last year (see the seven saves) before moving to the weekend rotation toward the end of the season.  Because of his success as a closer, the southpaw could potentially work out of the bullpen on Friday or Saturday in the late-innings to try to nail down a victory over the Titans.  If he's not needed, then Bleich will start on Sunday.

Other candidates to start the series finale include junior right-hander Erik Davis (1-1, 4.91 ERA last year) and sophomore right-hander Max Fearnow (2-0, 5.91 ERA).

Game times this weekend are as follows: Friday - 7:00 P.M., Saturday - 6:00 P.M., Sunday - 12:00 P.M.

The preseason Pac-10 Coaches Poll was released on Monday with the Cardinal checking in at #3.  Arizona State (four first place votes) was picked to win the conference followed by defending national champion Oregon State (three first place votes).  Stanford, a super regional participant last season, garnered the other two first place votes.  Here is a complete list:

1. Arizona State - 57 points
2. Oregon State - 55
3. Stanford - 51
4. UCLA - 44
5. Arizona - 42
6. USC - 27
7. California - 17
8. Washington State - 16
9. Washington - 15

Stanford will play non-conference series' versus California (March 2-4) and USC (March 9-11) at Sunken Diamond before the start of the Pac-10 season.

The Cardinal don't bring any serious injuries into the start of the regular season, but a couple of key players will be held out of action.  Sophomore first baseman Jason Castro has a broken bone in his right hand and will not play against Cal State Fullerton.  The likely #4 hitter in the starting lineup, Castro had a huge Fall Ball at the plate after batting .283 as a freshman in 2006.   Castro should return to action in the coming weeks during Stanford's non-conference slate.

Senior centerfielder Ryan Seawell is not expected to start this weekend either.  Seawell suffered a hamstring injury during the opening weekend of preseason practice nearly 2 1/2 weeks ago.  He returned to action during intrasquads just last Saturday, but is not yet running at 100%.  Seawell thrived during the second half of last season as a leadoff hitter and starter in center (.313 AVG).  He is expected to return to that role next weekend (February 9-11) when Stanford hosts Fresno State at Sunken Diamond.  Seawell could potentially pinch-hit versus the Titans, but his healing leg should prevent him from playing the field.

Redshirt junior Adam Sorgi this weekend is expected to play in his first collegiate game since June, 2005 when the Cardinal lost to Baylor in heartbreaking fashion at the Waco Regional.  Sorgi underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right, throwing shoulder last February and thus missed the entire 2006 campaign.  The Southern California native has been participating in intrasquads as a hitter dating back to Fall Ball, but has seen almost no time in the field because of his recovering shoulder.

In recent practices, Sorgi has been taking ground balls at third base - the position he started all 59 games at in 2005.  With far less throwing involved at the hot corner (as opposed to his natural position of shortstop), there is a very real possibility that Sorgi will try to play third this weekend at Fullerton.  He's not expected to be ready to play shortstop for at least a couple of weeks.  If Sorgi doesn't feel like his arm can handle the workload at third base this weekend, he will DH.

Sorgi led the 2005 Cardinal in hitting with a .322 batting average.

Baseball America released their Top 100 High School Prospects for the upcoming draft on Monday.  Three Stanford commitments found their names on the list :

7. Jack McGeary, LHP/1B
49. Drew Storen, RHP
67. Jonathan Kaskow, 1B

In the "Best Tools" section for high school players, McGeary is mentioned as having some of the best command of any pitcher in the high school ranks.  BA notes that McGeary "has feel for three pitches and an ability to set up hitters with all of them."  McGeary also possesses two-way ability (first base) at the collegiate level.

Stanford's biggest pitching recruit in years, McGeary is the top left-handed pitcher on the list and has been projected by Baseball America to be taken with the 18th overall pick in this year's draft.

Two current Stanford players garnered Top 100 mention on BA's College Prospect list: #29 Nolan Gallagher and #51 Michael Taylor.

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