What a weekend. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training and the college players are opening the season. Take a look at what Alabama has in store this spring in today’s print story:
TUSCALOOSA — Forgive Jon Kelton if he’s sizing up the Alabama baseball pitching staff.
He’s a fifth-year senior and, well, the staff is mostly freshmen. It’s that dichotomy that sums up this year’s Crimson Tide: Experience in the field and youth on the mound.
The first pitch of today’s 6:05 p.m. opener with Florida Atlantic belongs to 18-year-old Taylor Guilbeau. The 39th-round draft pick of the New York Yankees is believed to be the first freshman opening-day starter in program history.
Fellow newcomer Justin Kamplain will get the Sunday start, while junior Charley Sullivan is penciled in for Saturday. It’s sink or swim time for the young pitching staff, so Kelton’s keeping an eye on the young guns.
“That’s kind of one of the things with baseball, it’s such a mental game that you always check people out and see what their mentality’s like and see what their demeanor is,” Kelton said. “That’s one thing I’m noticing about them. They’re very relaxed.”
And they’ll need to be for the Tide to return to a fifth straight NCAA tournament.
Returning arms accounted for just 30 percent of the innings pitched a year ago.
Third-year coach Mitch Gaspard said he tinkered with the idea of throwing three freshmen this weekend before settling on bookend appearances.
The plan calls for 50-60 pitches for each starter with the left-handed Guilbeau getting the first shot at competition.
The experience resides in the field and a batting lineup that struggled with production last spring. That team finished 35-28 and ranked 208th of 292 Division I teams by scoring five runs a game.
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