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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Opening weekend leaves plenty of questions unanswered for baseball

    UA pitcher Corey Burns hurls the ball in an 11-2 win over Sacramento State on Sunday at Frank Sancet Stadium. Burns struck out three batters and gave up two hits in two innings in the game.
    UA pitcher Corey Burns hurls the ball in an 11-2 win over Sacramento State on Sunday at Frank Sancet Stadium. Burns struck out three batters and gave up two hits in two innings in the game.

    Around the Horn

    After losing so much talent to the MLB Draft last summer, Arizona head coach Andy Lopez and his staff were faced with a lot of critical decisions. While some solutions have started to emerge – right fielder Steve Selsky and pitchers Donn Roach and Cory Burns – there are still questions in desperate need of answers.

    On the mound, senior Preston Guilmet showed signs of his 2007 Pacific 10 Conference Pitcher of the Year self. He was comfortably throwing all of his pitches, and while he had control lapses here and there he never strayed from himself.

    His pitch count of 60 only allowed him to go four innings and kept him from finding a groove, but he said he still had plenty left in the tank.

    “”I felt fine, I was glad to get out there,”” Guilmet said. “”I was (on a pitch count) and it’s early in the season so (the coaches) wanted to get some younger guys some work.””

    Getting the relief pitchers as much work as possible will be crucial to the team’s success this season. Senior set-up man Cory Burns was brilliant over the weekend, allowing no runs in three innings of work, and junior closer Jason Stoffel was, well, Jason Stoffel. It’s far too early to declare who can bridge the gap to Burns and Stoffel, but if Lopez and his staff can establish a stable of dependable sixth- and seventh-inning guys then the Wildcats can rest easy.

    That brings us to the starters. Where Guilmet was good, Roach was great. And where Roach was great, Saturday starter Matt Veltmann was bad.

    Veltmann, a sophomore transfer, was brilliant in both the fall and spring. Players and coaches alike raved about his skill to the media, almost to the point that it seemed Veltmann would rival Guilmet as the ace of the staff.

    No, he didn’t have any defensive help behind him by committing eight errors, but giving up six hits in two innings makes Veltmann’s next start one of the biggest starts of his life.

    “”He wasn’t very good,”” Lopez said of Veltmann’s performance. “”He left a lot of pitches up in the zone. It isn’t a cause for concern yet, but it will be if he struggles in his next game.””

    Veltmann is a talented pitcher and he earned the Saturday starter spot, but if he produces an outing similar to his first then the Wildcats will be holding auditions for a new second-game starter.

    Offensively, the Wildcats lacked any sign of life for the first 17 innings, until junior first baseman Dillon Baird drove a grand slam over the left field wall in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday night.

    The players’ bats woke up on Sunday, though, to the tune of 11 runs on 13 hits. Six players had extra base hits, highlighted by Selsky’s seventh inning blast.

    Whether the offensive explosion was a mirage or a sign of things to come remains to be seen, but one issue that needs to be addressed is how they can protect and utilize senior third baseman Brad Glenn.

    Glenn, the team’s most powerful hitter, batted third in the first two games of the series and went a combined 0-for-8. Sacramento State pitchers, realizing that Glenn is the biggest home-run threat in the Arizona lineup, painted the corners and threw mostly off-speed pitches to the righty, forcing Glenn to stay patient and consistently fall to 0-2 and 1-2 counts – never a situation a batter wants to be in.

    Lopez moved Glenn to the clean-up spot on Sunday, sandwiching him with centerfielder Bobby Coyle, a contact hitter, and Baird, the teams’ second biggest long-ball threat.

    The move was a smart one for two reasons. Having Baird behind Glenn puts pitchers in a catch-22 type situation – pitch to Glenn, or pitch to Baird? In addition to helping Glenn, Coyle is the grand prizewinner in this situation. Thanks to the threat of Glenn’s bat in the on-deck circle, Coyle will receive a healthy dose of fastballs as teams will likely try to let Coyle beat them as opposed to Glenn.

    The move paid off, as Glenn ripped an RBI double into the right-centerfield gap and Coyle reached base twice and scored a run.

    Yes, Arizona is only three games into the young season. The sooner the starting rotation and batting order are set, however, the better off the Wildcats are.

    Tim Kosch is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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