October 23, 2013 2:57:06 PM
STARKVILLE - The biggest news to Tuesday's action at Dudy Noble Field happened before the scrimmage ever started. All signs were positive from Brandon Woodruff's first session pitching to live batters this fall season.
The junior right-hander starting pitcher tossed 25 pitches, all of which were a combination of two-seam and four-seam fastballs along with changeups, to veteran MSU batters including senior first baseman Wes Rea in a simulated inning in a warm-up before the scrimmage started.
"It felt good," Woodruff said Tuesday. "I finally got a (radar) gun in my bullpen and today I wanted (the radar gun) on me there. It just felt loose and felt it was coming out really good."
Radar guns recorded Woodruff's fastball sat between 91-93 miles per hour while reaching 96 mph with a 80-84 mph changeup. Woodruff had been working over the last two weeks in bullpen sessions with MSU associate head coach/pitching coach Butch Thompson without hitters being involved.
"He was really good, very positive and when I was talking to him during the scrimmage he felt very good about it," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "He threw a lot of strikes and didn't have a lot of big misses so it was very encouraging. In fact, some of our hitters like Wes Rea came up to me and said 'hey coach, he's really close to being who we think he's going to be'."
The only batted ball in the simulated inning session play was a lazy ground ball near the hole at the shortstop position. Woodruff said Tuesday he hoped to throw "a couple more times" before the end of the fall season.
"With any pitcher that is coming back off a injury, the day of is usually the best day and then the next day you see how much soreness but he's in a really good place," Cohen said. "I think there's a lot of peace in knowing this was the issue and we've isolated it and he's rehabbing with weights for two hours during our scrimmage."
Woodruff, along with left-handed junior Jacob Lindgren, will be counted on to top over the starting rotation spots this spring.
"I think he's very excited for Bulldog nation to Brandon Woodruff at his best," Cohen said. "I think that's a real possibility out there."
Here's the tidbits I gathered from Tuesday's scrimmage at Dudy Noble Field:
- Fourth-year junior catcher Zack Randolph showed a lot of defensive plays (blocks, calling holds and calling pitches) that the MSU coaching staff looks for in a player behind the plate. Cohen and the MSU staff has been consistent that defense is valued in the catcher position with the offense at that position being a bonus. Therefore, if Randolph can continue to handle the pitching staff and make the blocks and stops needed, he'll likely be the starting catcher option.
"Zack had a great day today with some plus blocks, communicated with our staff really well and had some solid at-bats too," Cohen said. "He did a lot of little things that don't show up in a stat book."
- The MSU staff is getting solid looks at the combination of Brett Pirtle, Kyle Hann and Matthew Britton at the middle infield positions. However, the wild card option up the middle for MSU is transfer Seth Heck. The 168-pound infielder was 3 for 4 Tuesday with impressive speed on the bases and has shown he can the responsibility of a second base if Pirtle moves to shortstop.
"Britton is a dynamic defender and we've known that the whole time but with the bat now he's starting to make the jump too," Cohen said. "If he can move the ball around as a offensive player and use his feet and speed, he's got a great chance to be a great player. There's a little bit of confidence with that too now too."
- Joey Swinarski is beginning to feel comfortable at the plate at the college level as a 18-year-old that should be a senior in high school right now. Swinarski was 2 for 3 with a 2-RBI double Tuesday and showed a really impressive arm from the middle of right field by hitting third baseman Reid Humphreys in the chest with a throw.
"Joey is going to be a great player and there's just no doubt about that," Cohen said. "He has so many skills and then thing is he's just so young. (Robson) went through that last year as a 17-year-old and he's playing against guys that are sometimes five years older than him. Joey will be able to defend, run and has a great hitting mind that he understands the game at a high level."
- Redshirt freshman left fielder Cody Brown reached over the left center wall and robbed what would've been a walk-off home run by redshirt junior power hitter Wes Rea, giving Gray a dramatic 9-8 win vs. Black in a five-inning scrimmage.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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