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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

What we learned from Red-Blue

Valentina Martinelli / Arizona Daily Wildcat

East Area Block Party on Highland
Valentina Martinelli
Valentina Martinelli / Arizona Daily Wildcat East Area Block Party on Highland

Judging by Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez’s comments following last Saturday’s Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage — “”Nobody got hurt,”” Lopez said with a laugh — it is clear that there isn’t all too much to take from a glorified practice.

But this was the first time that the UA baseball team flashed the leather and showcased the lumber — or in this case aluminum — in front of a public audience. There were certainly a few developments from the weekend worthy of note, most significantly coming from the pitching staff.

Pitching staff under the radar

With only two returning starting pitchers in the rotation, the pitching staff was one of the biggest question marks heading into this season. But if Saturday’s scrimmage was any indication, the Wildcats will surprise some people on the hill. Sophomore starter Kyle Simon took the mound first for the Blue squad, and proved to have No. 1 stuff. Simon finished last season with a 3-5 record and a 6.03 earned run average in 74.2 innings pitched.

“”On paper, he should be,”” Lopez said of Simon being the team’s Friday-night starter. “”(Kurt) Heyer is pretty good as a freshman. You’d rather have an older guy, a guy who’s been through the Pac-10 and has had some experience. Kyle (Simon) should be that guy and hopefully he’ll continue to.””

The Wildcats have two solid pitchers at the top in Simon and redshirt junior Daniel Workman — who didn’t pitch Saturday — but their depth full of freshman hurlers has been a nice surprise. Heyer started for the Red team on Saturday and proved to have the ability to land a spot in the rotation.

“”Hopefully, I’d like to be one of the starters,”” Heyer said. “”I’ve been trying for that spot the last few months.”” If Saturday was a realistic indication, Heyer should earn a rotation spot before it’s all said and done.

The biggest surprise of the day came from 6-foot-9 freshman pitcher Augey Bill — also known as “”The Big Unit”” and “”Big Bird”” to his coaches and teammates. Not only did he retire Cleveland Indian Jordan Brown, but he also showed flashes of what his smooth delivery and lanky frame can translate into. Lopez said Bill has improved every single day and he sees him as a potential factor in the rotation this season.

“”Jordan and I were talking about it,”” Lopez said. “”He asked me the same thing, he goes, ‘I expected him to throw a little bit harder.’ I said, ‘I hope in time he’ll fill out the 6-8 frame and he will be throwing 100 like a Ryan Perry.'””

Although the staff only returns two starting pitchers and six total pitchers, the depth and talent is there to be a major surprise for the Wildcats.

“”I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people. We have a really young and really talented pitching staff,”” Bill said. “”We’re going to come out and throw a lot of low-scoring games, and it’s going to be a good season.””

Position changes a success

Before the season there was speculation that last year’s shortstop and one of Arizona’s best defensive players, junior Bryce Ortega, would make the shift to second base with freshmen shortstop Alex Mejia coming in. As expected, Ortega — who hit .324 in a team-high 54 games last season — was slated at second base on Saturday for the Red team, with Mejia roaming short. Mejia, highly regarded as a defensive shortstop, made some impressive plays in the field. He didn’t look like he possessed the blazing speed prototypical of a shortstop, but his glove-work certainly makes up for it.

Sophomore Jett Bandy, a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American as a third baseman last year, made the return to his natural position of catcher. Bandy looked good behind the plate, hosing a couple of runners on the base paths. Bandy’s 6-foot-4, 209-pound frame should help the Wildcats defensively in regards to opponents attempting to steal.  Bandy also laced a double off of the wall in Saturday’s contest.

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