TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin met with reporters Tuesday to discuss his team on the first day of fall practice. The Seminoles return all three starters from last season’s weekend rotation, as well as a number of key position players throughout the lineup. FSU this fall will be play two intra-squad scrimmages — on Oct. 13 and 14 — and will wrap up its fall slate with an exhibition against the Ontario Blue Jays on Oct. 17.
Here’s the transcript of Martin’s interview:
Opening statement: It’s a fun time not only for the players, but the coaches. We’re getting an opportunity to play in the sunshine. We like what we’ve seen in the beginning stages of our fall program and now we’re getting in to the serious side, where we’re looking to see who is going to win positions, whose spot is going to be on Friday night. Who is going to be the mid-week guy, who is going to be the closer. So it’s a fun time for us, as we approach this, to evaluate.
How exciting is this time for you, and what do you hope to gain? Well, it’s a very exciting time. it’s something that we’ve been away from the game –even the young men have been away from the game – for six, seven weeks. The coaching staff have not exactly been away from the game, we’ve just been away from our players. And we’re looking forward to seeing who has gotten a little quicker with the bat, who has gained a little bit of velocity, who has all of a sudden developed a change-up after playing in a very good summer league. We will use this next four, five weeks and just totally evaluate who is going to play every single position. Who is going to be in the rotation. Yes, we have the three guys from last year back in our rotation. And they’re certainly the frontrunners. But they know there are a lot of other guys that are trying to get their spots. That’s good for everybody.
What’s it like having that stability in the starting rotation? I don’t know when we’ve had our rotation return. I know we’ve had two of the three return. … To have Sands and Carlton and Holton back is certainly encouraging.
Does it change anything when you have so many returning veterans? It’s amazing – the one new guy that you might have, the ball is going to find him. And, (for example) you’ve got a starting pitcher that’s cruising along and happens to walk a guy, and then a guy hits a ball into a certain part of the field where the new guy is and he misplays it. And the guy ends up at second. And the next guy gets a base hit and, all of a sudden, it’s 2-0. And the pitcher has made every pitch he needed to make and he’s behind 2-0. You’ve got to find people that can prevent something like that can happening. You’ve got to have guys at every spot that you’re not worried about losing the ballgame because somebody had not had enough reps in that fashion.
Does having so many veterans help those newcomers along? Well, yes. And, at the same time, we want those young ones to challenge the others. It’s so much different from professional baseball. Where (if) a guy has a $5 million contract, they’re not going to put him on the bench. Here at Florida State and other programs, you may have a guy that’s returning as a .340 hitter, but, yet, he knows he can’t go through the motions. He’s got to bust it in the weight room and on the field to prove he deserves this opportunity.
Is there a different approach or emphasis in the fall as compared to the spring? Big time difference, as far as I’m concerned. We want to have a very good idea of what we’re going to do when we start in January. We’re going to try to find out, with this beautiful, 90-degree weather, who is going to be a rotation, who is going to be middle-relief, who is going Tuesday and Wednesday, who is going to be the so-called backup catcher. I mean, let’s face it, we’re pretty sure Cal Raleigh is going to be our catcher. But there’s other positions – center field, right field – we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen at third. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen at first. That makes it fun, because (Mike Martin Jr.) has done a great job of bringing outstanding players in here, which creates a competitive environment.
How is Cobi Johnson’s elbow rehabilitation going? He starts throwing next week. Forty-five feet. So we’re excited for him. He’s been very diligent. Just a shame that it happened, but I don’t see him touching the mound this year except walking across it, going to the dugout. He’s going to sit out. We’ll be sure that he’s ready when the time comes.
What do you expect to see from freshman Drew Mendoza? I’ve watched Drew take ground balls. I’ve watched him, of course, in the cage. And I guess the best word to describe him, is he’s motived. He’s not the least bit complacent. He’s a very talented young man. He can do a lot of things for his size that many others that were that big couldn’t do. I mean, Drew Mendoza could play short, if we need a shortstop. We’re going to look at him at a couple different positions and see how he fits in with our ball club.
What does freshman J.C. Flowers bring to the roster? He’s got an electric arm. Very lucky to get J.C. Another good job (Martin Jr.) did of finding out about him. He decided to change his mind, so-to-speak. (Flowers was drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds.) He’s got a chance to be a two-way player. He’ll throw 93, 94. …He’s a good outfielder. The offense is something that’s going to have to be constantly worked on. He’s going to have to come up with a consistent swing. He’ll sometimes run into one and sometimes he carries that thing back with him (strikes out) too many times.
Are there any early candidates to fill in at center field? Well, I’d certainly say that J.C. is in the mix. Ryan Mejia is a guy that can play there. Depending on what happens in left and right, if somebody is swinging a good bat, Jackson Lueck can go play center field. We’ve got some different lineups that we can look at. And that makes it exciting. I think the biggest thing for us to realize is we can’t fall in love with ourselves before we play our first game. We had a very good year recruiting. Mike and Mike did a tremendous job of bringing guys in. We’ve just got to stay even-keeled and realize that it’s a long time before we open up. We have a tremendous amount of time to get better, to get stronger. Some of the guys will even grow half an inch to an inch. I’ve seen that many times in this program. So we’re just hoping that the guys keep everything in perspective and continue to work hard to be the best they can be.
Do you expect Tyler Holton to continue to be a two-way player? We’re looking at Tyler as just being a pitcher. We know he can play some first. He’s a heck of an outfielder. I’ll tell you that now. There’s just a lot of other guys that will be able to devote more time to the position play than we really want our pitchers (to). We want this young man to be in our rotation every weekend. He’s a great competitor. I’m not telling you he’s real happy about this. But that’s because he’s such a winner. He’s a great competitor. He wants to play every day. And we’ll get him out there some, because he sure won’t embarrass you. He can play some outfield.
Who is the leading candidate to be your closer? That is something that I honestly have no clue. We’ve got some guys that are experienced back, but I don’t know if that is the role that fits them best. We’ve got to find out. I would say that Chase Haney is in that mix. He came back with a little different approach to getting left-handed hitters out. That was one of his faults last year. He struggled getting left-handed hitters out. He’s developed a good change-up. His slider has improved. We will continue to look at him. J.C. Flowers is somebody that could battle for that job. I really like J.C.’s approach, his understanding of the game. He would be a good candidate for the closing role. That’s what these next five weeks are going to do. Because we’re going to put our guys in those situations and see how they respond.