So here's the first of a three-part interview series with FIU baseball coach Turtle Thomas (FIU photos, Alex J. Hernandez) about the upcoming season.
PP: How did fall ball go?
TT: We basically have 6 guys back that played as a position player or a pitcher for a significant amount of time last year. Those 6 are: Tyler Townsend, Ryan Mollica, Steven Stropp, Jorge Marban, Corey Polizzano and Danny DeSimone and Javi Sujo played some. He had like 82 at-bats. We have a lot of new pieces of the puzzle to the team. It was a lot of teaching and developing, a lot of starting to understand college baseball. They’re young and enthusiastic and they seem to learn pretty quick. There certainly is some talent out there on the baseball field. We just got to find the right lineup, the right positions for a couple of guys still battling at a couple of spots.
PP: Who are some of the pitchers that stood out during the fall?
TT: Scott Rembisz (left) from Manatee junior college looks to be right now the Friday night starter. He was the Florida Junior College Pitcher of the Year with a 13-2 record last year. He’s a very good competitor. He’s not scared to throw inside, nice breaking ball. He beats the hitters, because he out competes them.
Tom Ebert, from Iowa Western, the year before at the JUCO World Series hurt his arm and had Tommy John so he really didn’t start pitching until later in the season last year. He is really good. I would think right now he could either be our closer or the Friday, Saturday or Sunday starter.
R.J. Fondon, the left-hander from Flanagan High in Pembroke Pines, made some good impressions on us in the fall and should be one of our 4 or 5 top starters. We didn't really have any lefties last season. We’ve got 4 lefties now. Fondon, Justin Leith (Naples and St. Louis Cardinals draft pick), Corey Polizzano, Mason McVay (Killian) and even Ty Main, an outfielder, can throw a few innings.
TT: I’m thinking he’s either the closer or set-up guy either one or the other. He’s going to continue to come out of the bullpen. He grew up a lot last year. Going into the 2007 fall, he was kind of a name on the roster that was going to battle, develop and fight for a spot and low and behold he came through and did a nice job for us.
PP: What does the catching situation look like?
TT: Steven Stropp is our starter. There are 3 other catchers we got. We got Doug Joyce from Stanwood, Washington. About an hour south of Canada . He was the 41st round pick of the Kansas City Royals. We got Casey Hanrahan from St. John’s River junior college, who was 10th in the state in hitting last year. Sean Reilly is from just outside Boston. They are all battling for that number two slot right now. I don’t know that anybody is really forged ahead of the other two at this point.
PP: Can any of these catchers possibly play other positions?
TT: Not really, they are mainly catchers. Joyce, being a tall 6-3, could probably play a little first base and Stropp plays first base. All the catchers bats are developing, getting better and still figuring out the college game a little bit and 3-2 breaking balls and 3-2 change-ups. They’re still figuring out the college approach to pitching and have to become better at hitting different parts of the strike zone at different speeds and different types of pitches.
We'll take a look at the position players on the next post.