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UK Baseball Preseason Media Day

  • UK Head Coach John Cohen

    Opening Statement …
    “We have to thank all of you for being in here today. I have to say that it is very exciting to walk in and see so many of you that are interested in our program and the things that are happening. It is exciting.

    “I think we will have a nice club. One of my close friends and mentor, Ron Polk, always said that the deal in our league is about injuries, if you can stay healthy then you will be alright. I didn’t believe him until a year ago when we didn’t have Scott Green and Collin Cowgill. I thought that was a big factor for us. A year ago we didn’t have those two guys and I have told lots of people that it is almost as if they are a part of our recruiting class because Scott didn’t get to contribute as much as we would have liked him to and Collin wasn’t able to contribute on the field as well.

    “I really like the group that we have; I think it is a youthful group. When we go down to South Alabama in a week from now we will probably be starting two freshmen in the middle infield at shortstop and second base. We do have a nice mix in the outfield, the corners and behind the plate. We are more experienced on the mound than we have ever been before. Like I mentioned Scott, seniors like Brock Baber, Andrew Albers, Greg Dombrowski, Chris Rusin who is a junior and really pitched some quality innings for us a year ago and Aaron Lovett who is really coming along for us. So we have some experience. I think one of the keys in the Southeastern Conference is having guys who have experienced 7,000 or 8,000 people in the stands and know about the nature that it is all about, the exposure and the great competition of our league. I think we have that, so our kids are really excited. I can tell you that they are sick of practicing. We have been getting after it in the month of January and February. The NCAA allows us to do individual skilled instruction during the month of January. Then we open as a team in February and the kids are ready to compete against someone else, I can tell you that. We are going to play a lot of people early. I think this group really enjoys being around each other and it should be a fun experience. Some people say that there is three parts of the season. There is your pre-SEC stuff, then the next season is halfway through league play and you finish up with post-season which is our goal. It should be a goal for the group of athletes like the one that we have.”

    On possible starting lineup …
    “It really depends on who we are playing. For Xavier, it depends on whether they are starting up with a right or left-handed pitcher. In the outfield we will have Keenan Wiley who is a young man that has really proven himself, offensively and defensively. He is one of those guys that when he shows up he is a 5-8, 150-pound guy and there is a zillion of them in the country and we say every year that we are going to recruit someone who is better, but then he just keeps getting better and proving that he needs to be a guy that is playing for us. Collin Cowgill is all-everything on paper right now for us. He is one of the best leaders and toughest kids I have ever been around. He had a great summer in the Cape Cod league. When you talk about being an all-star in the Cape Cod league then you are saying a lot. You can read one of the dozens of books that has been written about the Cape. It is what it is all cracked up to be. Collin feels good and his preparation has been outstanding. Sawyer Carroll is one of the best kids in the country. Sawyer came here at 190 pounds and weighs 217 right now. He has been an animal in the weight room. He has become a great physical presence. The reason I say that is because I think he can become a homerun guy in the future.

    “We also have a transfer from Western Kentucky, Troy Frazier. Troy will be a factor for us coming off the right side. We also have Bryan Rose who is a kid who redshirted last year. He also has tremendous strength and weight gains, who we thing can be a tremendous force from the outfield along with Brock Wright who had a solid year for us. At third base, we have a kid named Chris McClendon. He can really play defense at third base and think it’s really the most difficult positions to play in the Southeastern Conference, because along with first base, it’s closest to the crowd. You’re dealing with a lot of different things playing third base in the Southeastern Conference. Chris is a great defender, he’s also a left-handed hitter and I think he’s going to have some power in his bat.

    “There is some rotation to the middle-infield situation. Chris Wade has become a young man who has made some tremendous strides from Lexington Christian. He went off this summer, had a great summer and has become a different player this year. He’s a tremendous runner, has tremendous arm strength, and he’s made all the plays. I think he has a great chance to start out at shortstop. He and Chris Bisson are competing for that spot. Chris Bisson is a true freshman he is probably the most talented freshman infielder I’ve seen in a long time. He’s going to be a great player at the University of Kentucky and he’s going to play a lot of us. At this point, he will probably start at second base. Neiko Johnson, a redshirt freshman has a chance to compete in that area also. Ryan Wilkes is a senior for us. He will be playing second base, but he’s dealing with an ankle injury and shoulder issue, so we’ll how that plays out.

    “We’ve moved Brian Spear from second to first base. I think Brian has the chance to be a really outstanding defender at first base. Again, one of the toughest young men I’ve ever coached. He had one of the highest on-base percentages in the Southeastern Conference. Brian had a great summer and I think he’s ready to have a great year for us too.

    “Behind the plate we have Tyler Howe who has become a factor for us on the mound as well. Tyler has improved his skills as both a receiver and hitter. Marcus Nidiffer has become a very solid defensive catcher for us who has grown up a lot over the last two years. We feel like he’s going to be a factor too. I think both guys will catch a lot. Brian Suerdick, who is a redshirt freshman, will be another factor behind the plate. We have very solid catchers and all of those guys will get early opportunities to play.”

    On player versatility …
    “Sawyer (Carroll) is probably going to be outfield only, unless we have some issues with Brian (Spear). Carroll has done well in the outfield, and he may also do some designated hitting. Spear has done a great job of working behind the plate, and he might even get to catch some too. We have many players who can play multiple positions. With injuries and other things, it’s really good to be in that situation in a league like the Southeastern Conference.”

    On Greg Dombrowski, recently named the pitcher in the SEC with the best control …
    “He had an outstanding fall, he was almost unhittable. His two-seamer was off the charts. Greg (Dombrowski) has experience, composure and he’s finally really figured out a way to condition without hurting his back. I think he’s finally healthy, and a healthy Greg (Dombrowski) can win a lot of baseball games for us. At times last year we were concerned if a ball were hit back to him, whether or not he could bend over and pick it up. In this league, that’s a tough concern to have. I think we’ve got a lot of those things worked out and he’s going to be very good.”

    On the pitching rotation …
    “Obviously, Greg (Dombrowski) is going to a factor because he was so good in the fall. Scott Green can really fit in nicely with being our Saturday guy, for a lot of different reasons. Chris Rusin started against four first-round picks in the Southeastern Conference and did very well. Chris (Rusin) is probably our Friday guy, Scott (Green) our Saturday guy and Greg (Dombrowski) probably on Sunday. But there are several other guys who can jump right into it that we’re really excited about. Logan Darnell has been great as a freshman. We don’t want to throw him to that mix just yet, but he’s going to get a lot of opportunities. James Paxton is throwing it as well as anybody for us. His first few times out, he’s been in that 88-92 mph range and I think at any point he can break into that rotation, if not immediately.”

    On preseason All-SEC pitcher Scott Green …
    “He is such a talented kid and a physical force. He’s loves the University of Kentucky and we’re glad he came back for his redshirt junior year. At the same time, you want to push him to where he can get through an entire year, but you don’t want to push too hard. We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure Scott (Green) gets as much time on the mound as possible. If we get 90-100 innings from Scott (Green), I think we’ll all be very pleased with that. Scott is as talented as anyone in our league and he is one of those kids who can pitch in the major leagues one day. If he can do what he did against Auburn last year, he’s going to get a lot of swings and misses. It’s easy to play defense behind a guy who strikes out a lot of players out. He’s very capable of doing those things. Scott is a great athlete who has very good hands and feet. We need him to give us five, six, seven, and eight innings every time out and we can be very successful if he’s doing that.”

    On Collin Cowgill, Scott Green and Sawyer Carroll not signing MLB contracts …
    “I think they enjoy their experience here, they think this club can do a lot, and they want to be a part of it. You can talk about leadership, but when kids that have check sitting in front of them and walk away, that means a lot to me. We’ve done several things to recognize that. If it happens once, it can happen again when we have other kids who are in that same scenario. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to have a great season, but it’s a great first step. It’s a great opportunity to see leadership in action.”

    On the leadership of Collin Cowgill, Scott Green and Sawyer Carroll …
    “It is leadership, production on the field, and the way they go about practice. So much of what we do is conditioning and strength in the weight room, and those guys are leaders in the weight room as well on the field. We hope to see all of that come together and send them off in the right way, which is hopefully a trip to Omaha.”


    UK Player Quotes

    #21, R-Jr., RHP
    Scott Green

    On the upcoming season …
    “Plenty of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm. We have been working really hard. We like where we are going, the guys are ready to get started, practice gets a little long as it gets closer to opening day. We all want to be in the game and getting ready to go. We have worked extremely hard, we are ready to go.”

    On getting healthy for 2008 …
    “It is nice to be healthy and get on the field and start helping us win some games. I am excited to get going, probably as much as anyone on the team.”

    On the 2007 MLB Draft process…
    “Well, I went through the summer thinking I was going to come back here - that was my main goal to get ready for the season and coming back here. That is the way my summer went. The offer that (Boston Red Sox) gave me was nice, but I like college a lot and I am just excited to come back. It made it a lot easier with Collin (Cowgill) and Sawyer (Carroll) coming back and just knowing that we have the potential to be very good.”

    On the 2008 team …
    “We are going to be very good, one of the best teams in our conference. The talent side of it, we have a very talented team - very competitively mature. We have a bunch of guys who have had a lot of success here, last year and the year before, and a lot of our guys have been here for all four years and that is something that is going to help with team chemistry, something that you don’t always think about goes on in the locker room and off the field.”

    On watching most of the 2007 season from the bench due to injury …
    “It was real frustrating, because I watched the year before. I wanted to be a part of the team and help the team win. The worst thing was walking into that training room and knowing that you are doing work and that you aren’t getting on the field. By the same token, the coaches and team gave me a lot of support.”

    On building confidence with an outstanding summer in the Cape Cod League …
    “A lot of confidence, we had a great team up there, which made it a lot of fun. The people up there made it real special and part of the success that we had, Collin and I were on the same team, made it real special as well. We were all very anxious to get back here though and see what we can do.”

    On his health entering the season …
    “Everything is fine right now, knock on wood. Hopefully it stays that way. You can only do so much to prepare yourself and I am going to taking every opportunity that we can, just like everyone else.”

    On UK’s prospects for an outstanding season …
    “It is very realistic. Especially this summer, Collin and I got to see a lot of the guys on other teams and guys talk. They all think they are going to be good and we all think we are going to be good and that is the attitude that you have to have. The realization that we really can do this, combined with the talent we have and the experience that we have makes this season really, really exciting.”

    #4, R-Jr., OF
    Collin Cowgill

    On his goals for the season …
    “Winning the championship was by far the brightest moment in my career so far, but this is just not going to be complete unless we get to Omaha. Obviously we all want to play well and be successful, but really my focus is to get there and compete for a World Series.”

    On the 2006 SEC Championship season …
    “That 2006 season was the most fun I have ever had playing baseball. Playing with the guys that we had, the coaching staff, and everybody, it was just so much fun. Having to sit out last year really got me thinking that I just wasn’t ready to leave college baseball and be done with that part of my life, I just hadn’t got enough yet. I am really looking forward to the season and getting that feeling when we have got a chance to host a regional and maybe a super regional and do all the things that we did in 2006 and get beyond that. Getting to Omaha is my ultimate goal and that was probably the biggest factor in my coming back (to school), knowing that we can be so good - I just didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity.”

    On communicating with Scott Green and Sawyer Carroll about returning to school…
    “That is kind of funny. Sawyer wrote me a text message during the summer, when we were all having discussions with the scouts and stuff. He wrote me like a three or four page text message and he wrote me telling me how good we could be and that he had already decided to come back to school. I was talking with Scott about it, he was on my team, and it wasn’t really an all together decision, but being able to talk to each other, find out each others viewpoints, and finding out just how good we could be was really the biggest factor in deciding whether we wanted to come back, just because we all believe so much in what we have and what we have as a team and the coaching staff.”

    On seeing the UK baseball billboards with his face throughout Lexington …
    “I have seen the one. I didn’t know about it, my parents actually told me about it and we drove out there to see it one night. It is kind of humbling, it kind of puts a bit of pressure on you about having your face up on the billboard. It is fun and I like it but hopefully I can live up to the expectations.”

    On missing 2007 due to injury …
    “I hurt it in the middle of February, I think it was the week that we left for Furman and we initially thought I was just kind of a soft tissue thing in my hand, so we casted it and just waited, I think two weeks, or 10 days and I just kept having more and more pain. So we took some x-rays and couldn’t find anything. So, I went to the doctor in Cincinnati and they said we need to keep it in a cast for another 10 days and if it is still hurting then we will have to go in and find out what is going on. Ten days later, it was still hurting and they went in and found out during surgery that the hook of the hamate bone was completely broken off, so they just took it out and smoothed the bone down. It was like the 15th of March when that happened, so it was another four weeks before I could even start to rehab. All together, it was an eight-week deal, so either if we had had the surgery earlier, or if it was just a soft tissue, I thought I would be back that third or fourth weekend.”

    On watching his team last season from the bench …
    “It was terrible, as bad as I wanted to play. It was the worst, because everyone was having so much success and having so much fun on the road trips. Listening to the road games and the excitement, we are beating teams like LSU, and I didn’t really get to interact with my teammates the way I really wanted to. That was the hardest part to see how good we were and could be, and to not be apart of it. Then the lingering thing was that we kind of thought I was going to get to play. Coach and I talked everyday about a feeling of when I could get back and finally it was just too late.”

    #19, Sr., OF/1B
    Sawyer Carroll

    On watching film on hitting …
    “I watch it a lot of TV, I always watch hitters, what they do, how they prepare, it is just something I like to do. Coach Vorhoff, one of our assistants, videotapes our swings and breaks them all down for us on a computer and puts them on a flash drive. So when I am just sitting at home on the computer, I can just pop it in and see how I am doing. It is kind of weird, sometimes I do watch it alot, sometimes I don’t. When I am going bad, I just sort of beat myself up a little bit. To be honest, when I am at home I think about it a lot, but once you get on that field, you just don’t think about it too much.”

    On having all the tools required of an excellent club …
    “I think we have everything. In Major League Baseball, you have a lot of trades and if we did have trades in college baseball, I can’t think anyone I would want to trade for. I like our team a lot, our chemistry is really good and I think we are just going to have to put it together, we have the tools there.”

    On feeding of the success from the 2006 SEC Championship season …
    “I think it is very big, especially having Scott and Collin back who were such a part of that season, Collin especially, playing a big role in that. It basically let us know that we can do this. Last year, we came up short and we know we can do it - we just have to put it together.”

    On switching from first base to outfield …
    “I like it a lot, getting real comfortable out there. I played it a little bit in the past and I didn’t really play much first base in the fall and haven’t played it in the spring, but I am starting to get comfortable and I really like it a lot. I had played outfield in junior college, not in high school, not much anyway. I played it a little bit in junior college but not seriously until I got here. Collin has been helping me out a lot. I think we may have three of the best outfield arms in the country. Collin can really throw well and so can Keenan, as you all can see, which I think is going to help us a lot.”

    On his foot speed compared to speedy UK outfielders Collin Cowgill and Keenan Wiley …
    “I can match up a little bit. I can run with Keenan, Collin may have a step on me but I think I can hold my own.”

    On the MLB Draft process …
    “Obviously, our season ended a bit short last year and we weren’t happy at all about the way the season ended. I went home, talked with my family and coach about the whole draft and it was right down to the wire. I got calls that whole day of the draft, the first and second day, and the Washington Nationals picked me up. I had talked it over with my dad, we had a financial number, but when I was talking with the Nationals, talking with coach, and talking with Collin and Scott about it, I just really felt it was the right situation for me to come back.”


     

     

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