A ten-spot from UK baseball media day

College Baseball

Cliff Hagan Stadium outfield; UK photo

The University of Kentucky hosted its annual baseball media day this afternoon. There was not any major breaking news at the event, but it was the first chance to talk with juniors Alex Meyer, Chad Wright and Braden Kapteyn and senior Taylor Black as well as head coach Gary Henderson this season. I’ve included 10 notes from the event below:

  • Henderson said the second base job is wide open but later admitted he would lean toward playing the strongest defensive player. While outlining the second base candidates, he made a point to emphasize freshman Matt Reida‘s defensive ability, so that probably offers a little glimpse at Henderson’s current thinking.
  • Senior shortstop Taylor Black said he seriously considered signing with the St. Louis Cardinals after being drafted in 2010. “In the end I though it was best for me to come back to the Cliff for my degree and another year,” he told BluGrass Baseball. Black is the only 2010 Cat who was drafted that elected to return to school.
  • Henderson said if the season started today junior everything man Braden Kapteyn would be the starting first baseman, but noted “somebody has to be able to play there when he’s pitching.” For now it looks like either Luke Maile or Michael Williams will be the backup first baseman when the other is catching.
  • While Reida may have a leg up in the second base battle, Henderson said freshman infielder J. T. Riddle was “kind of forcing our hand offensively.” Henderson noted Riddle keeps hitting line drives in the intrasquad games and eventually they will need to find a spot for him in the lineup if he keeps performing. Henderson even suggested Riddle might get a look at first base.
  • There was lots of talk about the new NCAA mandated bats. Each of the four players suggested that bats might even out some of the major losses on the UK offense. Henderson said he thought the complaining some other SEC coaches had done about the bats was overblown.
  • Alex Meyer confirmed a recent media report that he’s been working on a changeup this offseason. Henderson said the changeup would be especially useful the third time through the lineup when batters began to adapt to Meyer’s other two pitches.
  • Each of the three juniors spoke on the need for their class to step into the leadership roles vacated by the numerous upperclassmen who moved on to professional ball from the 2010 team.  “I feel like we have a lot of experience,” outfielder Chad Wright said of the junior class. “Coming in almost all of us have played quite a bit. With the experience we’ll be able to contribute a lot to the team.”
  • I asked Meyer about his adjustment to throwing to new catchers after mainstay Marcus Nidiffer‘s graduation, and he said Nidiffer would be missed but was confident he would quickly adjust to Maile and Williams.
  • Henderson said freshman Corey Littrell and junior Alex Phillips would be the midweek starting pitchers to begin the season. If either of them falters or an injury necessitates a change, freshmen Trevor Gott and Jonathan Paquet would be next in line for starts.
  • I asked each of the four players what this team needed to accomplish to consider the season a success. They each agreed on what that goal was, but Wright was most direct in his answer: “I definitely feel like it [the season] is not a success unless we make the postseason.”
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