Schlossnagle Reflects on Fall Practice
Nov. 24, 2008
FORT WORTH, Texas - With the first semester winding down, TCU Baseball Head Coach Jim Schlossnagle sat down with GoFrogs for a question and answer session about the 2009 squad.
GF: You guys did a different format for the fall this season with the 15-game series. How did you like that format as opposed to playing the Purple-White World Series?
JS: It was great in that this is the first time that we were able to put together two distinctly different teams, relatively equal in talent and let them compete throughout the course of the fall. We didn't have to bounce guys back and forth due to injury or class schedules, so they could compete against each other for the entire six weeks...not just in the games but also in drill work or competitive batting practices and coach-pitch games.
The series actually came down to the last game on October 26 and was decided in extra innings using the Olympic rules of baseball (start an inning with runners on 1st and 2nd and 0 outs).
GF: What were your impressions of the pitching staff as a whole?
JS: Well, with the exception of Steven Maxwell (who is recovering from last spring's Tommy John surgery), we were able to pretty much watch all 14 pitchers compete. The returning pitchers didn't really throw as much as the new guys but they were able to work on some things and show us any improvements they made over the summer. The new guys were more in a "game" mode where we wanted to see them compete and see what their strengths and areas of improvement are.
I like our staff at this point, although we have a tremendous amount of work to do. We will have some talented guys at the back end of our bullpen but they will be very inexperienced so we'll work hard in the spring to put them in as many game-like situations as we can to prepare them. We have three left-handed pitchers and we need one or two of them to really make some sort of impact this year.
The preseason practice in the spring will really tell us more...for example, this time last year, we thought Andrew Cashner would be in our rotation and he ended up as the first college reliever taken in the entire draft... so we'll see.
GF: Speaking of pitchers, you have a lot of new, young faces on the mound this season. How do you feel their first fall season as part of a D-1 program went?
JS: The young pitchers as a whole did really well. Some did better than others, which is normal. There are usually guys who come in and do really well and then they get bypassed in the spring and, vice versa; there will be someone we aren't sure will make a big impact and they will come back this spring and force their way into a role.
GF: The line-up returns a lot of familiar faces, but there are also some key holes to fill. Who has stepped up to grab the early hold on those empty spots in the field?
JS: You are right. We didn't lose a lot from last year in terms of numbers but we lost three seniors that had great seasons for us in Steve Ellington, Clint Arnold and Bryan Kervin. Arnold and Kervin are really tough to replace because they were such good defensive players in the middle of the field.
Taylor Featherston showed that he certainly has the tools to be a good Division I player in the middle of the field. He has some work to do this fall with Coach Todd Whitting both on defense and offense, but we think he can be a productive player.
Brett Medlin had another good fall in centerfield and at the plate and probably has the edge in centerfield but there are other guys that are on his heels and competing for time out there... including Brance Rivera and Aaron Schultz.
In left field, whomever is swinging a hot bat will likely play there. We have played Matt Vern a bunch out there while looking at Matt Curry at first base. We think Vern's tools and speed may suit well in left field and we are always trying to get the best offense on the field without sacrificing any defense. In the end, the defense usually wins out so we have to keep tinkering with it until we find the right group.
Jason Coats really had a great finish to his fall practice and we have very high hopes for the kind of offensive player he can become. Coats has some power that should get him opportunities to play.
Probably, my most pleasing surprise of the fall was Corey Steglich. Playing the entire summer in Alaska really helped him and he returned with a different mind set than he has had in the past. He has proven that, as he earns consistent at bats, he can be a really good college player. We will take a long look at him in left field.
GF: What are your thoughts on the line up as a whole?
JS: It's a lineup that, barring injury, should have significantly more power than we had last year. We have a lot of veteran players in it right now who know what kind of offense we like to run and how to execute it. I think the key will be finding guys who can accept and be good at their role of "setting the table"... getting on base so the middle guys can drive you in.
We really need a few players at the top of the order and at the bottom to develop high on base percentages and limit strikeouts so the experienced guys in the middle can have a lot of opportunity to hit with men on base.
GF: Defensively, this team has been record-setting the last two seasons. Do you feel that this team can maintain that level in 2009?
JS: That is the area of our team that we are spending the most amount of time on. We return two good defensive players on the infield in Matt Carpenter and Ben Carruthers but lose a shortstop (Bryan Kervin) that played over 180 straight games at shortstop. Losing Clint Arnold in center field hurts as well. However, that's why the next two months are really big for our team to see who can make the adjustments necessary to keep us at the same level defensively and, hopefully, improve it.
One area that was very good for us was the way Bryan Holaday and Jimmy Pharr caught and threw for us this fall. The pitchers did a good job of managing the run game this fall while at the same time making quality pitches and our catchers really threw well. Holaday, especially, can be a defensive weapon behind the plate.
GF: How have the newcomers fit in with the returning players?
JS: Hard for me to tell because I'm not a player... only the players really know the chemistry. However, I do think that you have a chance to have a good season when your best players are also your hardest and most dedicated workers and "team" guys. Matt Carpenter, Ben Carruthers and Matt Vern among a few others have really done a good job of keeping everyone focused and working with really good energy.
Chris Ellington, too, has really been a great example for young players. He has really improved his game, especially defensively in right field, and I think he's a guy that young players should model themselves after, even if he doesn't say much.
GF: Any other thoughts you would like to share?
JS: We just have a lot of work to do to become a good team. Last year's team was the best I've ever been associated with in terms of coming to the field every day with good energy, committed to practice and development. This team has shown signs of that but our work the rest of the fall will likely dictate what kind of season we have.