Oct. 12, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Just a few weeks in to fall practice, the Vols know that they still have a long way to go to become the team they want to be. But that doesn't mean they can't be excited about the progress that they have already made.
With more than 20 newcomers on this year's roster, Tennessee expected the development of the team to take a little while. Instead, this year's squad is coming along more quickly than anticipated, simply because it is sticking to the process instead of trying to force it.
"We have a lot of good options, it will be interesting to see how guys continue to develop," Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano said. "I like the pace that some of these guys are developing but more importantly the team is developing. We have a long way to go and what I keep emphasizing is that we have to just stick to the process.
"We know what we have in here right now, we know it is going to be good, but we don't know when. We just have to stick to the process, to continue to mentor and teach to get these guys to where they need to be when it is supposed to happen."
Part of the reason for the team's rapid development is the amount of competition for each and every position on the diamond. With as many versatile players as the Vols have, no position is set in stone. And it sounds like that isn't going to change anytime soon.
"There are a lot of battles all around the field," Serrano said. "Two and a half weeks into it, there are not a lot of decisions that have been made. As a coaching staff, we have a little bit of an idea but a lot of things can change. As long as I have done this, what we think our lineup might be in the middle of October is never even close to what it is in the middle of March or April."
With three scrimmages on tap for the weekend, the Vols have implemented a few new wrinkles designed to help the team improve its situational game. Before every inning, they will set up a specific situation they want to work on, such as runners on the corners, in order to get the squad experience in executing when needed. There will also be an added competitive piece to the scrimmages.
"We know there will be runners and certain situations that come up but we want to see them respond to situations that we have been working on every day in practice," Serrano said. "We just want to see how they respond to that, how they compete. We will have a little reward and penalty for the winning team and the losing team. We are going to split the team up and have something at the end where it is not just a scrimmage game, but where we are trying to get better and trying to win. That is what the emphasis is, to do things to win at the end of the day."
For more information about Tennessee baseball and a complete weekly practice schedule, visit UTSports.com/Baseball, follow @Vol_Baseball on Twitter or like the Vols on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/VolBaseball.
AGGRESSION ON THE MOUNDSerrano knows good pitching when he sees it and he is starting to like what he is seeing out of his young staff.
With a dozen new pitchers learning a new system, the early results were mixed, but they are starting to turn a corner.
"Early on I saw more timidness, which is expected with a brand new staff," Serrano said. "I think I have seen more aggression lately, throwing strikes and committing to strikes. I really believe that this pitching staff is going to be a strike-throwing staff, which is going to be important and is always important to any pitching staff."
In addition to that aggressive mentality, Serrano is also intrigued by the physical skills they bring to the mound.
"I like the athletic ability of this pitching staff, many of these guys are former infielders and shortstops, and what that translates to is them repeating their mechanics. That is a good thing and I see a lot of growth to still be had with this pitching staff."
Always a staple in any pitching staff of Serrano's, the changeup has been a key emphasis in the early weeks of fall practice. After focusing primarily on that pitch and the fastball to this point, the Vols are just now starting to mix in breaking balls.
"They have developed the changeup extremely well," Serrano said. "We are starting to slowly bring out the breaking balls now. They started throwing them in the bullpen and they will start throwing them in games control-wise."
GETTING A BREAKWith fall break on the Tennessee campus, the Vols are getting a little bit of a break from the class room.
In order to maximize that extra time and give his team some time to rest, Serrano moved practices up a few hours this week.
"It allows us an opportunity to get on the field early," Serrano said. "Guys are out of class and it allows them to have a little bit of a break in their schedule. We know we have high demands on how much time we ask of them with school, the Thornton Academic Center and everything they do so it is a little bit of a break. It is a good break at a good time for our guys."
VOLS TO HOLD FREE YOUTH CLINICThe Tennessee baseball team will host a free youth clinic from 9-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.
All children from age six through the eighth grade are invited to attend the free clinic where the current Vol baseball team will instruct them in all phases of the game, including throwing, hitting, pitching, defense and base running.
Following the clinic, the Vols will hold a practice before scrimmaging at noon.
Participants should arrive with all necessary baseball equipment, including cleats, glove, baseball pants and hat.