Pitchers and catchers started reporting to major league camps today and tommorrow throughout Florida and Arizona. They're breaking out cases of new pearly, white baseballs all throughout the two states. It's a great time of year.
In less than 48 hours, FIU right-hander Scott Rembisz will take one of those pearly, white baseballs and fling it across the plate with some Terrapin standing in the box to open the 2010 FIU baseball season.
Let's get some thoughts from FIU coach Turtle Thomas (left, thanks Alex J. Hernandez photo) on the upcoming season that begins with a home 3-game series this Friday against Maryland.
Several players and coaches have mentioned that the bullpen seems to be the strong point of the team. Would you agree with that?
TT: I think it would be the bullpen. We have 4 or 5 good guys down there. We're hoping Eric Berkowitz can be that middle reliever for us along with Dillon Vitale. Eric gave us some good innings last year. Bryam Garcia and Jorge Marban will start out the season as the closers. Garrett Wittels, who closed in high school, has got some good stuff. Alberto Cardenas has also got the ability to close and pitch in the late innings.
With lefties Mason McVay and Justin Leith out with arm injuries there are no lefties in the pen. Is that a concern?
TT: Freshman Dillon Vitale throws like a lefty. He throws a lot of change-ups like lefties do. Now Justin Leith we could have him back by March. He's begun his throwing program and the doctors have said he could be back pitching sometime in March. Mason might not be out for the year. That's not 100% that is he out for the season. He's well ahead in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
TT: Scott Rembisz (right, thanks AJH photo) will be our Friday night starter and Corey Polizzano will move up to the Saturday spot, because he has the experience and he's done it before. The Sunday spot is up for grabs between Aaron Arboleya and R.J. Fondon. They both pitched well in fall ball. I'm not 100% sure who the guy is going to be there. We need consistency. Last year there were some games where these guys were real good and then there were some games where they were not real good. You got to see that consistency.
Obviously, you don't replace a hitter like Tyler Townsend (Orioles) with his 24 home runs and 77 RBI last season and same thing with Ryan Mollica (Mets). So how do you think you'll make up for the production lost from those 2 guys?
TT: You really lost some good players there. The entire team has to take Tyler's place to equal out what he did for us. Ryan Mollica is that kind of player too. You want consistency. Ryan was Mr. Consistency.
You guys had the best turnaround in the 37-year history of FIU baseball last season by winning 14 more games than you did in 2008. How can you keep up that progress and build on it this season?
TT: A lot of it has to do with how well the starting pitchers do. If we can get 6 good innings each game, then we get to our bullpen. Our starters have the capabilities to pitch 6 good innings each time out. It's a matter of consistency. If we have a lot of inconsistency then you're talking about a .500 ballclub.
What does your projected starting lineup look like?
TT: This is a projected lineup with an emphasis on projected, because things can change during the season. Junior Arrojo (left, thanks AJH photo) is one of our better defenders and will be our shortstop and will probably bat leadoff. Pablo Bermudez is in center and will probably bat second. Mike Martinez will bat third and play right. I think Tim Jobe will be our cleanup batter and play first. Rudy Flores looks like our fifth batter and DH, but he can also play first and Tim can DH.
We'll probably have our left fielder batting sixth and that's kind of between 4 players right now: Michael Vargas, Jabari Henry, Yoandy Barroso and T.J. Shantz. Nobody there has really stepped up nor has anybody stepped down there either. Each of them can do good things and it will be a matter of who's swinging the hot bat. Our 7th and 8th batters could flip flop in the lineup. Hitting seventh and playing third base will be either Jeremy Patton or Garrett Wittels. Jeremy's like a Ryan Mollica-type of hitter. Good line drive type hitter. Garrett's been hitting the ball well this spring and he can also play second base or shortstop if we need him there. Raiko Alfonso is our second baseman and he'll bat either seventh or eighth. Raiko had a good fall and hit well for us last season. Our ninth batter will be our catcher which could either be Jose Behar or Sean Reilly and we also probably play Doug Joyce. We could play 2 or 3 catchers.
Of course, you would like to get off to a fast start against Maryland this weekend, but what else would you like to see from your team in these first 3 games?
TT: It's going to be interesting to see how things play out this first weekend. We want to see how some of these guys perform when there is another team with a different uniform out there. I really like to see how some of the young guys perform. Guys like a Jabari Henry, Alberto Cardenas and T.J. Shantz.
Will have a LIVE BASKETBALL BLOG of FIU/Florida Atlantic when the Hooters from Del Boca Vista Phase 2 visit the Bank for game two of the Pat Riley Classic this season. Will be on-line at 7:54 p.m. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.
Note to FIU fans when the Hooters visit on Thursday night -- Stay classy. Don't go acting like the baseball team across town did ("--uck Turtle Thomas, let's kill these guys") when they visited FIU for their first game against the Panthers and Turtle Thomas back in April 2008.
And don't act like the Hooters fans did on Jan. 30 when FIU played over there in Del Boca Vista Phase 2 Arena.
Just in case you were wondering, looking at Hooters coach Mike Jarvis's bio -- nowhere does it state that he was a physical therapist, occupational therapist, family therapist, marriage therapist or animal therapist -- so don't go calling MJ a therapist when he takes the court at the Bank on Thursday.