VandyMania: Coach, I know you have been very busy lately, so I just wanted to start by saying thank you for giving us a piece of your hectic schedule.
Coach Roy Mewbourne: Glad to do it. Anytime.
VM: Before we talk about the upcoming season and practices, let's look back at the fall. What were come of the pleasant surprises coming out of fall practice?
CRM: Well sure. We had Jeremy Sowers here! That's a pretty good surprise. I was real pleased with how he did. I was also real pleased with another young player, who is probably going to be our starting shortstop, Tony Mansolino. As just a freshman, I thought he made some very good improvement during the fall. I liked what I saw in him. To me that was a very pleasant surprise. Also, I really like what I saw in Cesar Nicolas. He's a sophomore with us, who I thought had a good fall. And another guy who is a senior, Scott Vanderhoff. He plays second base for us, and he might have had the best fall of anybody. I thought he hit extremely well. He made some adjustments, and did a really good job for us.
VM: With spring practice beginning in just one week, tell us what are the primary needs you will be looking to fill and the biggest areas in need of development.
CRM: Certainly, development of our pitching staff is really important. You can't have too much pitching. Coach (Derek) Johnson, my new pitching coach, has done a good job working with the guys, and I think we are going to be deeper and better in that area. I just think we will see some improved pitching from our staff, which is good. We needed that. The other main question marks have been what is going to happen at shortstop and third base. I think that what we are going to do there and who is going to play those positions has been a real question right now.
VM: What do you like about this team at this early stage?
CRM: I am happy with the depth of our pitching staff. Boy, when you've gone two or three years and haven't had any depth in your pitching staff, you feel a lot better when you get some. It's very difficult to go through one of these seasons, playing as many games as we do. Somebody's going to wear down, or somebody's going to break down. You've gotta have some guys who are ready to pitch. The last few years we have really been thin on the mound. So it's just good to have the situation where I think we've got the pitching coming. The other thing is I like our enthusiasm right now. Our kids are really excited about the upcoming year. Our returning players, which we have a number of, are excited. They have worked extremely hard. There's a very upbeat attitude around here about being very successful here, and there working hard trying to achieve that.
VM: You have two starters back in the outfield in Karl Nonemaker and Worth Scott. Are those positions locked up, and who will be competing for the third spot in the outfield?
CRM: Right now what we are thinking very strongly about doing is playing John Kaye, who backed up first base last year. He played some outfield in summer ball this last year. So I think we are going to try John Kaye out there with those two other guys. We'll just see where it goes from there. Karl will probably be out in center, but we are kind of flipping with the idea of which guy to use in left right now. Scott's a little faster guy. Maybe he'll be in right field in this new park, because it is much bigger. We'll just have to see. I think it's just a matter of watching both of those guys play, and seeing who does better with each spot.
VM: The pitching staff has guys like Steven Faulkner and Robert Ransom returning, but there are also some highly regarded young arms mixed in as well. Do you have an idea of who your starting pitchers and/or rotation might be at this point?
CRM: I don't think we've nailed anything in concrete just yet. Certainly we want Faulkner, (Jeff) Little, Sowers, and maybe Ransom in there. Ransom's had a little operation on his shoulder in the fall. He has been going through rehab, but he looks very good now. He looks strong right now. I think he's going to be okay. And of course we have Chris Maultsby, so really we have five guys for our starting rotation. I think it's just going to be the case of who is going to go out and prove to us early here in the spring that they are the guy who can go out there and start. We've got a little flexibility in styles, that is good. It's what you want, to give some different looks.
VM: Looking over who we lost and who we have returning, it looks like power hitting could be a weak area for this squad. What are your thoughts on that statement, and if you agree, how will we compensate?
CRM: I think that in some ways there is a little shortage of power here with this club. However, you never know. You can be surprised sometimes. I think there is some capability amongst theses guys to have some power. I will tell you that (Sean) Luellwitz is hitting the ball harder. John Kaye is capable of hitting quite a number of home runs. Now whether he does it or not remains to be seen. Cesar Nicolas is a big, long rangy kid who has some power in his bat. He is capable of driving a baseball for us. Chris Broadus is another guy who is capable of driving the ball for us.
VM: Well when you put that aluminum lightning stick in their hands, you never know what can happen. You look at a guy like Chris Burke from Tennessee, you would never think he would put out as many as he did either.
CRM: That's right. Sometimes you just never know. If we don't prove to have a lot of power, what we'll end up is trying to put some guys in motion. What I mean is we'll start hit and run in certain situations and do some things like that. Also, we'll do some straight steals, and that sort of thing, just to make some things happen and generate runs. We're going to have to execute situationally, and get the job done. We'll try to produce runs if we don't hit for enough power or a good average. I hope we're going to hit better with a higher average than we did this last year. If we do that, we'll generate more runs.
VM: Looking down the roster, it looks like there is a hole backing up Jonathan Doullard at catcher. You have McGraner coming in next year, but who have you been working as a back-up for this season?
CRM: The only other guy we've got here right now is Sean Luellwitz. When we lost David Wallace, it really hurt us, because it was so late. We weren't able to go out and sign another catcher then and there. We've got McGraner signed for the following year, which is good. He's a big strong, young man. He kind of reminds me of David Wallace. He's a big kid with good hands and a good arm. He'll be fine in the future. I'm excited about him. But right now we're kind of thin. Luellwitz will do a good job behind the plate receiving and blocking. He gets rid of the ball pretty well. Now, he doesn't have a cannon, but he is going to be able to handle our pitching staff, when we need to get some relief there.