No. 19 Mississippi State (20-4, 1-2 SEC) makes its first true road trip of the season this weekend when it visits No. 10 Kentucky (16-4, 2-1). It’ll be the normal starting pitching rotation: Jacob Lindgren on Friday, Evan Mitchell on Saturday and Kendall Graveman on Sunday.
We caught up with MSU coach John Cohen this morning via teleconference, and he addressed several important issues, from health to pitching to his return to Lexington, where he was head coach prior to taking over at MSU.
Here are some excerpts.
What sense do you get from the team heading on your first true road trip?
“They’re excited about it. Kids like going on the road, they like getting in different environments. It’ll be a great challenge for us, but when you have a veteran club that’s been on the road before, most of our kids have had that experience. They should be able to deal with that. When you spend too much time focusing on the differences, you take your kids’ focus away from who they are and what their identity is. We’ll talk about the adjustments we’ll need to make against a good Kentucky club and their ballpark, but we’ll spend more time on our identity and what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
(Kentucky’s Cliff Hagan Stadium has a short deck in right field – 310 feet down the line.)
How is outfielder C.T. Bradford?
“Yesterday was our off day because we practiced on Monday. I talked to him this morning, we had an early morning meeting to discuss our travel plans. He said he was good to go. He did show me where he got hit in the back of his leg just below his rear end. It was significant – he got hit pretty good. It was black and blue, and it was right around the hamstring he pulled. It was a combination of a little bit cooler weather and getting hit in the same spot, right on his hamstring there. He is convincing me that he’s fine.”
How important having Wes Rea back, your confidence in his health going forward:
“It’s very important. There’s two parts of it. No. 1, when you’re throwing to that big a target across the infield, it automatically makes your infielders better. The second thing is, Wes is a very good situational hitter. We felt like throughout the fall he had kind of turned the corner as an offensive player. It’s just a shame this quad injury has raised its head on him, because again, he is a leader. He has been through a lot. It’s beneficial for us to have him on the field. The cold weather, the quad, the whole thing, we’re hopeful we can get something out of him this weekend. That’s why we sat him on Tuesday, so hopefully he’ll be able to go.”
Play this road trip like a business trip, since you’ll see so many familiar faces:
“Those are things you do have to block out, but certainly it is a business trip for sure. It’s great to see those people, but you kind of have your game face on, too.”
How important to get more innings from starters, which could be difficult this weekend given the weather?
“Lindgren is somebody that is very capable of getting deep into a game. Kendall showed that as well. I think we could get deeper into the game with our starters, I just think with the belief we have in our bullpen – we still very much believe in those guys – you go through a little quicker just because the different look you feel like can really help you in those middle innings. … I think gradually as we get deeper into the season, our starters will get us deeper into games.”
What’s going on with pitcher Brandon Woodruff?
“When we watched the film – and I watched his outing twice, actually – we met with Brandon, we just believe he’s really close. I still believe even a month from now, two months from now he could be pitching on the weekends for us and doing really well. The quality of his stuff is that good. We just really believe in that kid. He’s a super athlete, he’s got a great arm. There’s two things that we really believe in, in our program. One is skill level, and two is, do you make people around you better. And he does both those things.”
(Woodruff has failed to get out of the first inning in each of his last two starts.)