News and notes from Oregon State baseball media day
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 17:01
• The Oregon State baseball team is confident about the upcoming season, and the polls back it up: Baseball America ranks the Beavers No. 6 in the nation, and No. 14 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
Senior pitcher Matt Boyd: “The highest poll is No. 6. That’s a lot of room. That means there’s five teams we need to get after.”
• Head coach Pat Casey doesn’t feel the team deserves to be as confident as they are, or that the Beavers deserve such high rankings.
Casey: “I’m not quite as impressed with them as they are with themselves, it sounds like. But I think that I like our club and I think that I like the personalities on our team. But at this point I’m not as impressed with them as Baseball America and the guys are.”
• Boyd is the frontrunner for the third spot in the starting pitching rotation. Juniors Ben Wetzler and Dan Child are locked in for the first two spots, and last year’s freshman standout Jace Fry is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2013 season.
Boyd has only started two games in his career at OSU, and both were in his freshman year. He had a 3.41 earned run average and 31 strikeouts in 34 appearances out of the bullpen last year.
Boyd: “The goal has been to start and that’s what I’m working toward right now.”
• Sophomore outfielder Michael Conforto is coming off a historic season in which he hit .349, 13 homeruns and drove in a school record 76 runs. Despite a season where Conforto was the Louisville Slugger Freshman of the Year, Casey thinks the sophomore could actually be better in 2013.
Casey: “I don’t see Michael Conforto not being a better hitter, he will be a better hitter. But whether his numbers match up or not, that depends on who hits around him, who hits in front of him, who hits behind him and how other people react.”
• Junior Jake Rodriguez is the ultimate utility-man for the Beavers. He’ll be looked at to be on the field every day at either catcher, second base or third base.
Rodriguez: “I’m prepared everyday to play any position the coaches put me at. In the wintertime I played third base, I played second base, I caught. I feel comfortable at all these positions.”
Casey considers Rodriguez and Jerad Casper — a transfer from Bellevue College — the frontrunners to start at third, but Rodriguez will be playing all three positions.
With Ryan Gorton’s departure, it will be sophomore Nate Esposito taking over catching duties when Rodriguez is in the infield.
Casey: “Nate Esposito has done a nice job [at catcher], it gives us the flexibility for Jake to go play second or third.”
• Senior Danny Hayes, who only played 33 of the team’s 60 games last year due to injury, is someone Casey believes could be due for a big year.
In those 33 games, Hayes had a .307 batting average and a 1.001 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Casey: “I really believe that Danny Hayes is in better shape than he’s been since he’s been here; we’ve had to patch him together four or five times since he’s been here. I think he’s finally healthy and I think he’s going to have a big year for us.”
• Senior shortstop Tyler Smith figures to be a key cog in the Oregon State lineup this season after finishing second on the team in batting (.343) in 2012. Smith has turned heads in practice and could be even better this season.
Casey: “I think Tyler Smith’s made a huge jump. He’s going to be a better player.”
• Freshman right-hander Andrew Moore has already impressed the coaching staff and could see significant time on the mound this season. Moore, from North Eugene High School, was the Oregon 5A State Player of the Year and could come out of the bullpen or potentially even slide into the starting rotation at some point this season.
Casey: “He threw very well for us this fall. I was very impressed with him. The only thing he needs is game time and I think the game will be the teacher for him a little bit, but I like his stuff.”
Wetzler: “He’s going to be real good. He’s got great stuff.”
• It was a pleasant surprise for OSU when senior right-hander Taylor Starr was announced eligible in 2013 because of a medical redshirt. Starr missed three full seasons at Oregon State with three different Tommy John surgeries early in his career.
The sixth-year player should be one of the first relievers out of the bullpen, and possibly a fill-in starter for the Beavers.
Casey: “He brings a lot of experience and I think a lot of character to our club. I really like him. He helped us win some games last year, I can tell you that, and he’s better this year.”
Wetzler: “He’s almost like a third coach in the bullpen. He’s been through the battle and the war, and he can shed some of that light on the younger guys, as well as us.”
• Mostly, the players are eager to get back on the field for games. The team felt there was something left on the table after being eliminated from regionals in Baton Rouge, La., last June.
Wetzler: “As soon as that last pitch was thrown at LSU, I think we’ve been real hungry to get back out there. We didn’t like the feeling that we had there.”