Michigan State Baseball Preview Part II - Pitchers & Catchers
Former Cubs draftee Day leads catching corps
Feb. 19, 2008
Michigan State Baseball Outlook - Part II
Many Arms To Choose From...
Similar to many teams in college baseball, the Spartans will count on the pitching staff to lead the way for a strong 2008 campaign. Leading the way on the mound will be a group of experienced seniors that are looking to put it all together for 2008. Those seniors will be joined by a group of newcomers that will definitely play a major role in the overall success of the pitching corps.
"Last year, our pitching staff started off very strong. Unfortunately, we battled some adversity and were not able to sustain that same level throughout the season," Grewe said. "With some experience coming back and the addition of some talented new arms, we will look to maintain a higher level of consistency from start to finish. I am anxious to see which of the veteran arms step up and perform to their potential this spring. We have some guys that have talent and that have experienced success throughout their career. I am excited to see them put it together for a whole season. I am also very excited about the group of new pitchers that are in the mix. I fully expect a handful of these new guys to make a positive impact this spring."
Senior Mike Monterey (Farmington Hills, Mich.) and redshirt junior Mark Sorensen (Northville, Mich.) return as the most experienced pitchers on the staff. Monterey has spent the past two seasons as the closer for the Spartans, but he enters this spring as a candidate to be a starter in the weekend rotation. He finished the 2007 campaign second on the team in appearances (19) en route to a team-leading eight saves, the third-best mark in Spartan single-season history. Sorensen returns after having been sidelined by injury during the 2007 season. After pitching in just four games before being injured, Sorensen is working to regain the form that earned him the Great Lakes Collegiate League Pitcher of the Year award during the summer of 2006. Sorensen, the son of a 10-year major leaguer, has shown the potential to be a front-line arm in the Big Ten and will be counted on to perform at that level in 2008.
Seniors Chris Cullen (Tecumseh, Ontario) and Ryan MacFarlane (Murphysboro, Ill.) should also have a strong presence on the pitching staff in 2008. Both right-handers have shown flashes of significant potential and are looking to put it all together for the spring. Cullen, who finished last season 2-2 with a 5.70 ERA, battled through a severe case of mono at the start of the 2007 season and did not find his rhythm until the second half of the season. He was pitching his best at the end of the year and took that into a successful summer in the Alaska Collegiate Summer League. MacFarlane, who made 12 appearances in his first season of Division I baseball last spring, is a junior college transfer who also found his rhythm by the middle of the season. Both Cullen and MacFarlane should see significant innings in 2008.
A handful of underclassmen will also be competing for time as starters in 2008. Leading the way among the newcomers is sophomore transfer Scott Heitshusen (Lawrence, Kan.), who joins the Spartan program from Hutchinson Community College. Heitshusen is a two-way player that has shown an advanced feel for pitching and could play a significant role as a starter or late-inning reliever.
Sophomore lefty Kyle Corcoran (LaGrange, Ill.) returns from a successful freshman campaign that saw him pitching in the weekend rotation. Off-season knee surgery caused him to miss fall baseball but he should be approaching full strength by the start of the season. If healthy, Corcoran could see time as a starter or out of the bullpen.
Freshmen A.J. Achter (Oregon, Ohio), Tyler Newsome (Palos Heights, Ill.) and Kurt Wunderlich (Des Peres, Mo.) have also shown the ability to pitch at a high level and could factor into a starting role during their first year of Division I baseball.
"I have said many times that starting pitching is one of the biggest factors in the success of a program. We have some veteran guys in our program that have the ability to be quality starters for us," Grewe said. "We also have a talented group of underclassmen that I believe can help as starters early in their career. I believe that we have a group of pitchers that will be tough competitors and give us a chance to win in every game that we play.
"As important as starting pitching is to a team's success, having reliable pitchers in the bullpen that can come in and finish the ballgame is critical. I like the depth of arms that we have in the bullpen this year. I am looking forward to a couple of guys taking hold of their role and establishing themselves as reliable guys at the end of the games."
As Grewe indicated, there are plenty of arms to choose from in the bullpen. Returners Cullen, MacFarlane, and Corcoran, along with newcomers Heitshusen, Achter, Newsome, and Wunderlich, could all be see action out of the pen as well as in a starting role.
Redshirt junior Nolan Moody (East Lansing, Mich.) and junior A.J. Dunn (Grand Ledge, Mich.) both return as pitchers with the experience of pitching at the end of ballgames. Both have shown flashes of an overpowering repertoire but are looking to add consistency.
Senior Tony Clausen (Jenison, Mich.) and redshirt junior Peter Wolff (Lake Bluff, Ill.) have both made strides during the off-season and could be contributors out of the bullpen in the spring. Senior Max Miller (West Bloomfield, Mich.) will also provide depth to the bullpen in 2008.
Freshmen Brandon Eckerle (Durand, Mich.) and Seth Williams (Alexandria, Va.) have both been impressive in preseason workouts and could compete for significant bullpen time as well. Eckerle commands a solid fastball with above-average secondary pitches while Williams has a power arm with an above-average fastball. Freshmen Steven Doty (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Jeff Holm (St. Charles, Ill.) and Andrew Webb (Allen Park, Mich.) have all shown improvement in the off-season and will provide valuable depth to the bullpen.
One Of The League's Best Behind The Plate...
With Kyle Day returning, the Spartans have one of the top returning catchers in the Big Ten. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native battled injuries for most of his sophomore season; however, when healthy he has shown the ability to be one of the top hitters in the conference. He batted .295 three home runs and 26 RBI and scored 26 runs, adding a .438 on-base percentage. Day, who was named to the all-star team in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 19th round of the MLB draft last June.
Junior Eric Roof (Paducah, Ky.) has made the switch from infield to catcher and has taken significant strides throughout the fall and off-season workouts. Roof battled through the 2007 season playing with a broken bone in his hand, and now that he's healthy, he has shown good potential with the bat and looks to provide a solid option behind the plate. Senior Kyle Kunkel (Kalamazoo, Mich) has continued to improve behind the dish and can be used as a reliable defensive option.
Freshman two-way player Seth Williams sat out the fall due to injury but could work into the catching mix, as well as see time on the mound. Williams has considerable potential with the bat and possesses above-average arm strength. Freshman walk-on Andy Johnson (Lake Forest, Ill.) impressed the coaches in the fall with his defensive ability and will add valuable depth behind the plate.