Cohen Talks Lindgren, Pitching, Position Battles as Season Nears

Mississippi State opens the 2013 baseball season on Friday against Portland. It’s scheduled for a four-game series (weather permitting), and I caught up with head coach John Cohen this morning to talk mainly about pitching.

Sophomore left-hander Jacob Lindgren will start on the mound Friday. He was named MSU’s top pitcher in the fall and got some decent experience last season. Lindgren was 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 14 appearances, logging 28 1/3 innings, mostly in relief work. He started against LSU in the SEC Tournament, giving up three runs on five hits 4 2/3 innings. State won that game, 4-3, en route to winning the tourney title.

“He is so hard to pick up, because he really does not know from pitch to pitch sometimes what the spin of the baseball is going to be like,” Cohen said. “He could throw a cutter in accidentally to a right-hander at 87, 88 mph, and then throw the same pitch and pronate a little bit and have some arm side toward the left-hander’s batter’s box. He’s a tough read for a hitter. What we’ve got to be able to do with him is match his stuff with the ability to pitch. … He has a much higher baseball IQ than I gave him credit for when he got to Mississippi State. Even his delivery is something that’s really hard – there’s a lot of deception in his delivery.”

Cohen added, “It is so beneficial for a baseball program to have a kid like Jacob Lindgren and not have to throw him 50, 70, 80 innings. He was allowed to grow, and I think he was at his very best at the end of the year, because he had some experience.”

As for the rest of this weekend’s rotation, Cohen has tentatively scheduled junior righty Evan Mitchell to start the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, with senior righty Kendall Graveman to throw the nightcap. Sophomore righty Will Cox will likely start Sunday if he’s not used in relief before then. And the weather, which for Saturday doesn’t look promising, could change Cohen’s plans.

Could Lindgren stick as a Friday starter once SEC play begins in four weeks? Cohen is keeping his options wide open for now, but yeah, Lindgren is as viable a candidate as any. Cohen is very high on him, and he gave me some good inside baseball on the kid’s ability. He expounded on the above comments about the spin and movement on Lindgren’s pitches.

“Some of the greatest pitchers of all time had that,” Cohen said. “One pitch could be 92, the next one could be an 87-mph cutter, the next one could be an 80-mph changeup. Again, does he accidentally cut this pitch, does he turn this pitch over? That’s a real gift to be able to do that.”

• Cohen also talked about some position battles in the field. Junior Demarcus Henderson and freshman Jacob Robson are vying for the starting job in left field, while freshman Brett Pirtle is likely the starter at second base just based on the fact he gives you some offense and switch-hitting.” Junior Daryl Norris is expected to start at third base, but Cohen wants to see several other guys log time there, including freshman Kyle Hann, redshirt freshman Nick Flair and junior college transfer Alex Detz. Detz could also play first base when needed.

• Back to pitching, one candidate for a weekend starting role is sophomore right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who’s been battling elbow soreness. He’s scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against Grambling State.

“He threw really well in an intrasquad game last week; didn’t want to come out. Got to 40 pitches. We’re going to try to get him to 40-60 pitches today. And then our plan is to throw him next Tuesday against Grambling. That’s our plan. … But again, it’s going to depend on how he reacts to the intrasquad today.”

I am the online content coordinator for I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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