COMPETITION AT SHORTSTOP
University of Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell said his team has had “some really great competition” during the fall and now into preseason camp.
On Monday, McDonnell said several position spots were still up for grabs. The Cardinals start the season on Friday night against Indiana in Dunedin, Fla.
The biggest question mark among the everyday starters is at shortstop where McDonnell said there’s a “really good three-way battle,” going on between Zach Lucas, Alex Chittenden and Sutton Whiting.
”They’re all good,” McDonnell said. “They all bring strengths to the table but to say that any one of them as been as consistent as we need them to be – probably more defensively – is not the case.
“We have competition at the shortstop position.”
Lucas, a sophomore from Louisville Butler High School, played in 46 games last season and made 43 starts. He hit .259 and had 20 errors in the field.
A junior from Indianapolis, Chittenden played in 53 games as a sophomore and made 36 starts. He hit .303 and had eight errors.
Whiting, who is the brother of former U of L standout Boomer Whiting off the 2007 World Series team, is a sophomore who played in 20 games but only had five at-bats last season.
”They have all been there before,” McDonnell said. “Sutton is a little on the outside because the other two played a lot last year. But he did a lot this fall.
”Alex has been a slow starter and we have had to take him out. He seems to do well towards the end. Will we go another direction this year? We’ll just have to wait and see what’s best. It’s a battle.”
PITCHING STAFF STRONG FOR CARDS
With a bunch of arms he’s counting on, McDonnell has one of the better – and deeper – pitching staffs in his time at U of L.
“There’s obviously a lot of talent when you talk about our weekend rotation in (Chad) Green, (Jeff) Thompson and (Jared) Ruxer,” McDonnell said.
Green, who was 5-0 last season, will be the Friday starter against Indiana, while Thompson will start on Saturday against South Florida. He tied Justin Amlung for a team-high nine wins last season. Ruxer was the 2012 Rookie of the Year.
But there’s also depth on the staff.
McDonnell called Dace Kime the “most valuable pitcher on our staff,” while Cole Sturgeon, the likely starter in right field, had three saves last season. Nick Burdi, who throws over 100 miles per hour on his fastball, will be the closer.
Baseball America lists Burdi as the No. 2 prospect in the Big East.
CARDS NEED DEFENSE
McDonnell said with the lofty expectations on the team this season there’s one area they “must improve” from recent campaigns.
”Our challenge is defense,” McDonnell said.
The Cardinals had five more errors than opponents last season and return a bulk of the position players from that lineup.
”If we are going to be a great team then we are going to have to defend,” McDonnell said. “We have been able to cover it up for a few years – we have been able to hit so many home runs – we got away with being an average defensive team. But we have to be better on defense.”
U OF L JERSEYS ON SALE
U of L baseball game jerseys from previous seasons are now on sale through the U of L baseball office.
The jerseys can be purchased for $75 apiece.
For information call (502) 852-5791.