Jan. 26, 2010
The Washington baseball team is less than a week away from taking the field for the first practice of the spring on Feb. 1. Two and a half weeks after that, the Diamond Dawgs will square off against New Mexico State at a tournament in Tucson on Feb. 19 in the season opener.
Here's the first look at the 2010 UW team, as GoHuskies.com runs through the squad, position by position. In previous installments, first-year coach Lindsay Meggs focused on the catchers, infielders and outfielders. In this third and final edition, he takes a look at the pitchers. Click on the links above for the earlier previews.
2010 Husky Baseball Preview: Pitchers
As with most college programs, the coaching staff enters the year hoping to quickly establish its weekend rotation: those three pitchers who will take the mound for starts in the nine three-game, Pac-10 series that are the most meaningful part of the schedule.
Heading into the first practice of the spring, Coach Meggs has four pitchers that he thinks will compete, at least initially, for those roles.
"The leader in that group is probably Andrew Kittredge," Meggs said. "He had the best fall of anybody on the team. He's got some innings under his belt from last year. He had a good summer. He's a great competitor and a good athlete."
As a freshman in 2009, Kittredge pitched in a remarkable 29 games, including seven starts, and was a featured pitcher during the conference season.
"He's probably got, if not the best arm, one of the best arms on our team," Meggs said of Kittredge. "He's really our leading candidate to be our Friday night guy just based on his tools and his ability to compete."
Another competitor for the rotation is tall, powerful right-hander Forrest Snow, who made three starts last year.
"Forrest has got off-the-charts potential," said Meggs. "He's dripping with arm strength, size and stuff. I believe that, with his stuff and the kind of improvement he's made, he's a potential weekend guy for us. He has that type of stuff. He's worked extremely hard to find consistency."
Junior southpaw Geoff Brown has seen time as a starter during his freshman year, but appeared strictly out of the bullpen in 2009, pitching in a team-leading 31 games.
"He's a guy who can soak up some innings. He competes and has learned to hold runners better," Meggs said of Brown. "He's worked himself into contention for some type of weekend role. Depending on what type of depth we have with left-handers out of the bullpen, if we can afford to start him, he would be a candidate on the weekends as well."
Sophomore righty Aaron West is the final candidate as practice gets started. Like Kittredge, he spent the beginning of his freshman year in the bullpen before emerging as a starter mid-season.
"West is a consistent strike-thrower," Meggs said. "In a perfect world, we'd have enough depth that we could keep him out of the rotation and keep him in the bullpen since he can recover quickly. He could be your first guy in on Friday and still get an inning or two out of him on Sunday."
From there, the team will look for a closer. The top candidate for that spot heading into the year is freshman right-hander Adam Cimber. a strike-thrower with an unusual delivery that suits a closer. However, Meggs points out that the team needs to be in situations where a closer is needed (that is, close games one way or the other) to make sure Cimber gets enough work.
"In a perfect world, Cimber would close, just because he's kind of unusual in terms of the arm slot," Meggs explained. "For one inning and three outs, I think he'll be ideal because it's such a different look. If we can afford to push him back to that closer role, we'd love to do it. It's going to be a matter of how some of the older guys perform. That's going to dictate whether we can hold him back and use him to close.
"He could start for us, based on his performance in the fall," Meggs continued. "That's the million-dollar question: can we afford to try and use him in that closer role? That would be ideal for us and also for him."
In the remaining pitching roles, Meggs will have at his disposal a good mix of experienced veterans to go with some less seasoned arms.
"Clem is going to be a matchup guy vs. right-handers," Meggs said. "I really like Jacob. I like his tenacity and the way he competes. He's going to pitch for us."
Gomez has served as a starter and reliever in the past, just like Guidos.
"We'd like to use Adrian out of the bullpen because he's one of our better guys holding runners and he's one of our best guys off the mound in terms of fielding his position," said Meggs. "And, he's one of the most resilient guys in terms of recovering day to day. He can pitch three days in a row."
"Ben has gotten better with each day in terms of his command," Meggs said of Guidos. "He's throwing as many strikes as anyone is. He's a guy we could use in almost any role."
The less experienced group includes redshirt freshmen right-handers Matt Gorman and Colton Bielaski, true freshman righty Collin Monagle and sophomore left-hander Brandon Rohde. True freshman pitcher Nick Palewicz is slated to redshirt the 2010 season to recover from an injury.
Gorman redshirted last season due to injury and didn't see face any live hitters in the fall or winter, so Meggs will have to wait to see how he fits in. Bielaski is new to the team despite having attended the UW last school year. A solid three-pitch pitcher, he figures to see action out of the bullpen early on.
Monagle, who is also returning from injury, is still getting his feet underneath himself and trying to get back to top form.
"Collin has probably been the best we've seen him since the fall began," said Meggs. "He's getting some feel back. He was, at one time, quite the power pitcher, from what we're told. He's a hard-working kid. We're pulling for him to get back there."
Finally, Meggs sees a lot of upside in Rohde, who saw limited action as a freshman in 2009. Meggs states that his breaking pitch has shown great improvement and that he could work his way into a significant role.
"He's young and he needs to get some innings under his belt to get better," Meggs explained. "We feel like he has pretty good makeup. He's gotten better and better. In my opinion, he could be the surprise of this whole staff. He could start the season in a modest role and, by the end of the season, could end up being one of the more important guys."
As with any new coaching staff, Meggs and his group of coaches enter the season with a lot to learn about their new team, never having seen any of the 2010 Huskies play in a college game.
Even veteran coaches with large groups of returning players enter each season trying to settle on which players will emerge and which lineups work best, but it's an even more daunting process for a new staff. Plus, they have to balance the experimentation with trying to win games.
Either way, the goal is to try and figure things out before the start of Pac-10 Conference play, which this season is April 1 vs. Washington State.
"I think we're going to be able to see a lot of guys early on and, whether by design or not, we're going to throw guys out there and see who matches up with whom," Meggs explained. "We're going to lose some games early on because of the schedule we play, but we're going to get a good feel by the time Pac-10 play rolls around. By that time, I think we're going to have a firm idea of who our guys are."
The early schedule is indeed challenging. Among others, Washington will play host to Fresno State (the 2008 NCAA champion) and perennial power Cal State Fullerton at Husky Ballpark while traveling to face the likes of Long Beach State and BYU during the early portion of the schedule.
That stretch will allow Meggs and his coaching staff to assess his players against high-level competition, and to continue to instill his philosophies to his new team.
"The challenge is to play the game as well as we can play it," he said. "That, from the beginning, has been our goal here. If we can get the players to understand that, let the process take care of itself, then maybe we can play our best baseball at the end of the year and be willing to suffer through a slow start or some ups and downs to try to peak at the right time.
"I think we're talented enough," he continued, "that if we can just get them to think about one pitch at a time, one inning at a time and concentrate on where we are that day, the results will take care of themselves."
It all gets started soon. The team takes the field for its first official practice of the season on Feb. 1. Just 18 days later, the Dawgs will board a flight for Tucson, where they'll face New Mexico State (twice), Missouri and Gonzaga in a tournament. The following week, the Huskies open the home slate with a three-game series against Fresno State.
"We're all excited to get out there," said Meggs, "to get the uniforms on, get on the plane to Tucson and get out there and compete. For us, it's about competing. We want to be relentless on the mound and relentless on the bases, relentless at the plate. We're looking forward to that."