I got out to the Light this afternoon to catch up with the No. 1-ranked baseball team in the country before practice and had a chance to speak with coach Jim Morris and ACC Player of the Week, Blake Tekotte.
But the biggest news didn't involve either of those two, rather left-handed sophomore Eric Erickson, who did bullpen work for the first time in a month since his arm began to suffer from the same soreness he did a year ago. Morris told reporters there is a chance Erickson could pitch Sunday in Tallahassee when the Hurricanes meet the No. 2-ranked team in the country, Florida State, for a weekend series.
"I’m not sure [if he'll pitch]," Morris said. "I’ll know more today after practice when he throws his first bullpen in a month. I do expect him to be back to be honest, but I don’t know that for right now."
Morris said Erickson likely would go no longer than three innings if available. Morris said he'd likely use "Johnny Wholestaff" -- aka whatever he can patch together -- to pitch the remainder of the game Sunday. Freshman Chris Hernandez (5-0, 2.77 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday's game and Enrique Garcia (2-0, 5.56 ERA) to start on Saturday.
But first there will be a series tiebreaker with Florida Atlantic to take care of Wednesday night. Morris said Mike Rudman (0-0, 6.10) will start against FAU, which snapped Miami's 14-game winning streak with a stunning win at the Light last Wednesday.
"They played good against us there’s no question about that," Morris said of FAU's win last week. "FAU has a good team. There is a tendency for teams to focus more on weekends and conference games. But if you want to stay No. 1 or be No. 1 or stay in the Top 5 you got to play every game. We learned a lesson with them and we’ll play better tomorrow night."
Tekotte, who was named ACC Player of the Week after his big weekend at Georgia Tech, has been growing out his long blond hair and said he won't cut it until Miami loses a series. There's a chance of that happening if the Canes slip up Wednesday.
"I hope I don't have to cut it until after Omaha," Tekotte said Tuesday.
Among the other topics Tuesday... Morris talked about the play of Yonder Alonso, who is hitting .358 with 8 homers and 33 RBI this season. Morris said Alonso has more than lived up to his preseason expectations and has handled the pressure well.
"That’s what we hoped for him that he’d be a guy that could hit them out, play third base or first base. He’s developed into a possible first round draft pick and really helped our team win," Morris said. "To be honest, [the draft] is on everybody’s mind. That’s on every player’s mind whose eligible whether you’re a projected first rounder or a 10th rounder. It’s a huge year for him. There’s a lot of pressure on him even more so than playing for Miami or being ranked No.1. What’s even more pressure is the pro draft and being able to keep that perspective and stay in the game and be relaxed. Just playing the game and not being uptight.
"He’s got great power. He’s considered one of the best hitters in the country. The things he does best is he’s got power, but he can hit – he can really hit. He uses all fields and I think that’s what the pro people like. He’s not just a power guy who is going to hit for numbers, but he’s going to drive in runs, he’s going to hit home runs and he’s going to hit for average."
This season the NCAA trimmed down the length of the season to accomodate schools in the north who have to deal with the effects of winter. Morris said Tuesday he hopes the NCAA will reconsider and take a different course of action because he fears it affects the amount of time athletes have to study.
"The thing I don’t like about the schedule is the pressure it puts on our guys academically," Morris said. "I think even when we play on Tueday and Wednesday night, they don’t get to study. They don’t get out off the field until 11 p.m. or midnight. Or like me they don’t go to bed until 1 or 2 because they’re keyed up for the next game. And then they got to go school early the next morning. I would like playing five days a week instead of two or three times because it helps your rhythm and it puts a lot more pressure on the pitching staff. So as players I would like that. I’m just concerned academically. The NCAA is preaching APR and grades so much and this is just the opposite of that. It kind of discourages me from that standpoint. I’m telling you the grades will be. I’m not guessing. They will be reflected nationwide. A lot of teams travel. We don’t travel very much. We don’t travel during the week and most of these teams got to travel and those type things and I think its going to be reflected nationwide on baseball. I think its a big mistake what they’re doing – shrinking the season up and keeping the same number of games. They either need to spread it our cut back on the number of games, which I hate seeing (just for academics)."