For this installment, I’m going to answer some general questions about Ben Bracewell, Luis Pollorena, and give an update on a future MSU Bulldog among other things….
What happens to the rotation when Ben Bracewell returns? I think one of two things will happen with Ben when he returns- he will either go to the bullpen, which is the most likely spot for him, or he will start midweek. The bullpen makes the most sense to me because MSU doesn’t have Taylor Stark that can serve as another closer for Caleb Reed, and I also believe that closer is Ben’s best role as a pitcher. On top of that, Chris Stratton has done nothing to warrant losing his spot in the rotation to say the least. Nick Routt and Evan Mitchell have been a good tandem for the most part, although they don’t get a lot of run support, and Kendall Graveman has also pitched well on Sunday.
Midweek as a starter makes sense to me as well because as of now, the midweek starter appears to be Will Cox who is a freshman and has struggled a little bit with non-SWAC teams at times. MSU still has USM and Ole Miss as well as a typically solid Sun Belt team in South Alabama on the schedule as well as Central Arkansas coming up as non-SWAC teams. Needless to say, those are important games that are coming up and MSU needs strong performances to win those games. Ben may be a very good option especially when you consider that the bullpen will be fresh and ready for all of those games. Ben could give us three innings, and then perhaps MSU turns to someone like Jonathan Holder for an inning or two and then go with Reed and finish it off with a hopefully by that time healthy Taylor Stark.
Why isn’t Luis Pollorena pitching? This is a pretty easy question to answer- Pollorena had been struggling with his control in the bullpen. That was until last night- Pollorena came into last nights game with Alcorn State with two runners on and nobody out- the first batter sacrifices for the first out, and with runners on second and third, Pollorena gets the next batter to pop out to first base and then finishes off the inning with a strike out. And then, Pollorena pitched the next inning only facing four batters- the only batter that reached was via a hit by pitch. To me, his performance was the most positive thing about last nights game with Alcorn State.
Baseball players are human, and because of that, sometimes they get into funks. There’s no way to explain it- and it happens to pretty much anyone in the game. And the really odd thing about funks is usually it’s one little thing that the player isn’t doing right. But that’s where the coaches come in- I’m not sure if Butch saw something or if it was another teammate, or sometimes it can be a players parent- but once that flaw is discovered and corrected, it can make a huge difference. I think that’s the case with Pollorena. Every MSU fan knows what kind of pitcher Luis can be, and if he can get back to that, it would be huge because of Bracewell and Stark being down for the time being. After last nights performance, I’m eager to see if he turns it around now.
Reid Humphries update: Reid Humphries is the top junior in the state of Mississippi for baseball, and is a shortstop and pitcher for the Northwest Rankin Cougars. Last night, he faced Madison Central and Ole Miss signee Zach Irwin and struck out four times- however in the fifth at bat against Irwin, he hit the game winning single in extra innings to lead the Cougars to a 5-4 win over the Jaguars in Flowood, MS. Humphries is a verbal commitment to MSU for the class of 2013.
How do you work on situational hitting and why has MSU struggled this season with it? I think it goes back to being young and inexperienced more than anything. You have to remember- these players were stars in high school, which meant that they were more often than not the clean up hitter in high school. The job of the clean up hitter- and I’m sure that these players were taught this in high school, and this is the correct way of teaching them- that as the clean up hitter, their job is to drive in runs. So, for a lot of coaches, if their clean up hitter pulls a ball when they maybe should have gone to the opposite field, they usually don’t raise a big stink about it because they know that their hitter that is going to play SEC ball and maybe be drafted has a pretty darn good chance of knocking the ball out of the yard. So, a lot of young SEC hitters are not used to thinking- “I need to hit this ball to the opposite field to move the runner over” and things like that.
Our players are learning that the playing field is a lot more level than it was in high school. But the good news is with experience, our players will learn that there is value in being a good situational hitter and that it’s OK to not hit a three run bomb every time up. They’re also trying to impress scouts and the coaches by getting a big hit, but again, with time they will learn that doing little things will impress the coaching staff and scouts just as much as hitting with a ton of power.
Now, how do you work on it? There’s several ways to do it- and coaches do all kinds of things. In practice, they may simulate situations and then give points for a player doing what they are supposed to. A lot of teams work on it during batting practice and they have a routine where on the first pitch of BP, they bunt it to first, and then bunt it to third, and etc. Here’s a video to show you what I am talking about.