Today marks the start of fall practice for the Clemson Baseball team and after losing seven players to the 2017 MLB draft, including the entire starting pitching rotation of Charlie Barnes, Alex Eubanks, Pat Krall and mid-week starter, Tyler Jackson, the Tigers will go into fall practice seeking new arms.
On Thursday the media spoke with head coach Monte Lee, catcher Chris Williams, Seth Beer, shortstop Logan Davidson, pitching coach Andrew See, pitcher Owen Griffith, and pitcher Ryley Gilliam.
Here is what we heard:
“It’s been fun to just watch the guys,” Lee said. “Anytime you go into the fall where you have this many first-year players it’s exciting. It’s exciting because you know you’ve got the challenge of a coach of really implementing your philosophy with them and trying to get the most out of them.”
After suffering a shoulder injury late into the 2017 season, Williams was drafted in the 31st round by the Tampa Bay Rays but chose to return to Clemson for his senior year. Catching a new pitching staff is something Williams will have to get acclimated to quickly.
“This year we are obviously a younger group and there is going to be a little more coaching involved,” Williams said. “I think I am going to be learning just as much about them as they are learning about me and we’re just going to have a lot of fun with it.”
Beer, who Perfect Game has ranked as the No. 1 prospect for the 2018 MLB Draft, decided he ultimately wanted to improve his defensive skills, specifically at first base this off-season and into fall practice.
“I lost fifteen pounds this off-season, just trying to lean out, be more athletic, and I really worked on improving my defense at first base,” Beer said on Thursday. “I’ve made the decision to try to move all of the way to first base. I’ve been enjoying it, I’ve been working as much as I can at first base… at the end of the day I want to be a better, more complete player and not just a hitter.”
Davidson had a solid freshman season and was one of six participants in the College Home Run Derby this summer. He’s satisfied with his first year but definitely wants to use fall practice to work on many different parts of his game.
“I’m not complaining about last season,” the sophomore said, “but there are definitely a lot of improvements I need to make in all aspects … hitting, stealing bags, in the field, whatever it is there’s a lot of things I need to improve on and that’s what I’m going to do this fall.”
See is looking forward to the start of fall practice as there are many guys who have the potential to fill the void of the starting roles.
“I think there’s a lot of eagerness amongst the staff to get out there and show what they have and how they compete…we are going to try to develop as many guys as we can to start but I do see the excitement with their work ethic and their demeanor.”
Griffith, a righty, saw limited action in the first half of last season, but gradually emerged as one of the team’s top relievers late. He also earned his first career win for the Tigers in the Clemson Regional.
“What I’ve been working on the most is just getting more smooth arm action,” Griffith said. “Around this time last year I had a bunch of shoulder trouble and now I’m just trying to clean stuff up, get smoother, and I’m going to try to add a pitch or two in case I end up in a starting role this year.”
Junior right-handed pitcher Ryley Gilliam was a mid-week starter in 2016 but developed into the closer for the 2017 season. Whether or not he becomes a starter again this season, he wants to make sure he is taking on the responsibility of setting the tone for the new faces in the dugout.
“I’m really just hoping to make an impact on our freshman, on our underclassmen,” Gilliam said, “and make the positive impact, how to be a Clemson Tiger, how to play baseball here at Clemson.”