2014 Baseball Media Day: Video & Transcript

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Mississippi State head baseball coach John Cohen led the Diamond Dogs to the finals of the 2013 College World Series.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head baseball coach John Cohen as well as selected coaches and players held their preseason press conference Monday afternoon to discuss the 2014 season. State opens the campaign this weekend (Feb. 14-16), hosting Hofstra in a four-game series at Dudy Noble Field.
 

Press Conference Transcript - 2/10/14

Head Coach John Cohen

Opening Statement…

“I have really enjoyed our preparation. I think our kids have shown a great deal of maturity in the way that they came back from break. I thought they came back in great condition and in baseball condition. That’s really good when you consider we have been shortened up a little on our preparation time. We started a little bit later in school than in years past, and we are starting a little earlier than we normally do as well with our season. I think our kids are really focused. It’s a great group to work with. I think we have tremendous leadership. I think we have some really advanced younger guys that have stepped up. And I think our kids are really excited about competing against somebody in a non-intrasquad situation. Like everybody else in the entire country, we have battled the weather and it looks like we’re not done with that with what’s going to happen tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday. But certainly having gotten outside three days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this last weekend really helped us in the evaluation process and helped out kids get ready as well. Whether we’re ready or not, it is upon us and I think our kids and our staff are ready for the opportunity.”

On the opening weekend series…

“I think we are going to have the opportunity to play a lot of people in four ballgames, which is something I really like. I noticed the schedules around the country there are not as many people are playing four-game weekends. I really enjoy that because doubleheaders at Mississippi State are really special. When I arrived here, a lot of fans talked about ‘Hey, how about the Saturday doubleheader?’ I wanted to bring that back to Mississippi State for our fans. It also really forces us to pitch at least eight guys during the course of the weekend. If you look at it statistically, we’re not going to roll somebody past 70-80 pitches. It is impossible to get a complete-game performance out of 70-80 pitches. That means you’re going to have to pitch some other guys. We’re really going to try and pair two pitchers which each ballgame to help us get a really good evaluation of who are going to be those three guys on the weekend when we start league play. We have a long time to get into that. I think we still have a lot of competition in our ballclub that’s still in front of us.”

On strength of infield players…

“I think Alex [Detz] has really gravitated toward the third base position. He came to us as a second baseman. I think he has really improved as a defender at third base. I’m really proud of him. He’s an on base machine; a savvy hitter. He makes everybody in front of him and behind him a better player in our lineup. His arm has been really accurate and gotten stronger over time. His range is better. Certainly, Brett Pirtle has a chance to be everything he was last year and more. A dynamic athlete, who can get to balls, who can throw, who brings energy to our club. A guy, because he’s a switch hitter, brings a lot of flexibility to our club and our [batting] order.”

On catching situation with four catchers…

“I think all of our guys have competed well; they all bring something a little bit different to the table. I’ve really been pleased with that competition. It’s hard during an intrasquad game to get all four of those guys the same amount of playing time. I think [Zack] Randolph has really improved as a leader, as a pitch caller, as a blocker whose arm has come a long way. [Gavin] Collins is a freshman who keeps getting better every single day. He is a great receiver. I think he is starting to make some adjustments offensively. Cody Walker is a young man who probably has the best arm in the entire group. [Daniel] Gardner can really hit. Of the four guys, he is the best hitter. If you combine those four guys you have a first rounder. Each of them brings something different. I think there is going to be a lot of opportunities early for us to find out who is going to be that guy.”

On pitching rotation…

“We have a lot of candidates. The first weekend is going to be based upon spacing. In other words, the guys who threw for is this Friday will get the week off to pitch the following Friday. Brandon Woodruff is going to start for us next Friday, but that doesn’t mean Brandon Woodruff is going to be a Friday guy when we get into league play. It just means that’s what we’ve been timing it out to do. Certainly, Brandon is a candidate for that. Trevor Fitts will start one of the games for sure.”      

Associate Head Coach Butch Thompson

On deciding who to throw…

“Well there are times I may get vetoed and have to go talk to John (Cohen) and the other coaches, but overall I’m just thankful for where we are with our pitching staff and knowing that we have the pieces we need. In whichever way we go, I’m not sure it will be the perfect piece, but we just have to make sure we have something lined up to go play a weekend series and go from there.”

On the competition at catcher…

“Well we want to make sure we keep them competing. We want to keep everyone in the mix. We obviously have to make a decision on who is going to catch the first game, and no one is going to catch consecutive games in a doubleheader this early in the season.”

On making more calls from the dugout this year…

“I think so early, but I also know that if I gave a player 30 games and I let him run the show and trusted him, even though he may fail at times, he will grow more by making those decisions himself as opposed to me making them for him.”

Preseason All-American LHP Ross Mitchell

On his mindset as a relief pitcher versus a starter…

“I’ve only had one start here, so I don’t really have a starter’s mindset. It’s awesome being able to throw everyday possibly. It’s kind of cool; you get the benefits of being a starter, but you get to sit and watch the game and predict the outcome and as a reliever you’re always available.”

On the lessons from the MLB players in Mitchell’s family…

“They have taught me so much on how to play the game correctly on the mental side. They didn’t shove it on me; they were just there for me if I needed help and just kind of taught me the basics.”

On the “Bench Mobb” tryouts and additions to the group…

“We’re not really going to add a new member. We are just going to be spontaneous. Everybody is welcome and we want it to be a team effort.”

On his pairing with starter Brandon Woodruff in the opening game…

“Woody is a hard thrower, but he throws strikes. He’s going to get the other team’s bats moving which sets me up well because I like contact. I have so much confidence in Woody that he’s going to get the game started and rolling. I think he has that same confidence in me that I will be able to come in and hold a lead.”

On his approach…

“I try to be aggressive with my arm every single day, so that it’s not like one day a week I am aggressive and the next day I am recovering. I try to train my arm to be able to do that throughout the week.”

All-American RHP Jonathan Holder

On this year’s expectations for himself…

“I’ve done a lot of hard work. We have had a couple of good years and just had to come back in the fall and realize that it’s a new year. W came back and went to work to get back in the grind.”

On the young arms on the pitching staff…

“Man, we have so many good young arms this year with Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton. We have some young starters that can really get things going. In the past couple of Sunday scrimmages, they have done really well.”

Perfect Game Preseason All-SEC 1B Wes Rea

On being voted team captain with Ben Bracewell

“It’s a tremendous honor. For the guys to look up to me like that and know they can come to me in tough situations, it means a lot. It’s an honor, but at the same time I don’t put myself above anyone on the team and they don’t think that either.”

On dealing with expectations…

“I feel like this year, it wasn’t as big of a deal letting people know what our expectations are. They already know our expectations based on how we played and performed last year and the direction Coach Cohen has this program going. It’s just something people know, and there’s a sort of quiet confidence in the locker room. We go about our business the same way every day, and people from the outside looking in know what to expect as opposed to us having to tell them.”

2013 All-SEC 2B Brett Pirtle

On decision to come to MSU…

“I knew coming in that it was going to be harder to secure a starting position as opposed to other places, but I came here to win a national championship and it’s all about the ride.”

On improvements needed to get back to Omaha…

“We just need to stay consistent. This game is all about consistency. You’re going to fail in this game, and it’s all about how you respond to that failure that defines you.”

2013 NCAA Starkville Regional MVP Alex Detz

On having Wes Rea to throw to at first base…

“I feel like if your throw is going to miss, most of the time it’s going to miss up. It’s actually a huge help having someone who is 6’ 5” with his wingspan. It definitely gives you more confidence in making throws to first.”

On transition from middle infield to the corner…

“It’s all about adjusting your reaction and how you react to the ball – Getting your feet set. Most of the time it’s either going to be a rocket coming right at you or a slow roller, so you just have to be ready for anything.”

Baseball America Top-40 MLB Prospect Brandon Woodruff

On Chris Stratton’s advice to him in the offseason…

“He’s given me some good advice. He’s been the guy I have wanted to model myself after since we have a lot of similarities. I think it’s awesome that he thinks my stuff is that good and I really appreciate that coming from him.”

On being roommates with Wes Rea

“My roommate moved off to play somewhere else and Wes and I have been good friends, so he offered to pick me up once Hunter Renfroe left.”

On coming back from his injury…

“Once I was hurt, Coach Thompson wouldn’t let me stray away and get away from the mental side of baseball. He kept me focused in on everything and I think that’s where I grew the most during my injury…”

Team Co-Captain RHP Ben Bracewell

On personal goals…

“The obvious personal goal is just put together a full healthy year. I kind of want a little more than that, not just be healthy but set a specific number to reach. Coach Thompson always jokes about the 100 inning mark, but I have taken it from a joke and tried to turn that into a reality. It may not be 100, because that’s a lot of innings for anyone, but something up there is what I am expecting to do and I want to make that happen…”

On his pitching style changes from last year…

“I haven’t done any dramatic changes. I am still going to be doing the same thing. The main thing for me is just to make sure I am moving the fastballs in and out. I have the same arsenal of pitches as last year. I’m just going to try to mix it up more and see how it goes, I guess.”


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