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February 14, 2012

Baseball Wrap: McGee will start at catcher



After missing all but 10 games last season with a shoulder injury, redshirt sophomore catcher Stephen McGee has worked himself back to full strength and will be Florida State's starting catcher on opening day. FSU opens the season against Hofstra on Friday at 4 p.m. ET.

McGee appeared in just 19 games as a freshman in 2010, batting .333 with four doubles and two RBI. Last season, he hit just .111 with a double and two RBI before the injured shoulder, which required surgery, kept him out of the lineup for the rest of the season.

After working his way back throughout the summer and fall, McGee is now slated to take over the starting catcher role with the graduation of Rafael Lopez. McGee beat out true freshman Mario Amaral for the starting job.

"I would have to say that Stephen has established himself as the top guy," head coach Mike Martin said. "He's caught and thrown well, and Mario has played well, but I look right now that Stephen is our guy."

McGee got the upper hand on Amaral because of his experience in the system and the familiarity with the returning pitchers. Assistant coach Mike Martin Jr., who works with the catchers, said that just because Stephen is the guy right now doesn't mean it's required to stay that way throughout the season.

"It's been a good battle. It will be a good battle for a while. Nothing's set in stone," Martin Jr. said. "The experience and knowing the system and being a little bit further along, knowing the finer points of the game, has Steve in the lead. They're both going to be used, they're both going to get time, they're both going to be utilized and be valuable to the team."

Because of the physicality of the catcher position, McGee and Amaral both will see plenty of time behind the plate this year, which is why McGee didn't shy away from helping Amaral adjust to the college game this preseason.

"I think we're both going to get playing time this year," Amaral said. "(Stephen's) a good guy. He's helped me out a lot. Every time I ask him a question he's got an answer for me so he knows what he's doing back there."

McGee, who is the younger brother of former standout outfielder/pitcher Mike McGee, said he feels like he is really seeing the ball well at the plate. But he is most pleased with his development as a defensive catcher.

"So far just all around receiving and just moving behind the plate," he said of what he's improved on most. "Mostly just the leadership role (Martin Jr.) taught me. Just keeping a positive attitude and keeping the pitchers in check."

Martin Jr. said he wants all of his catchers to be able to play defense behind the plate and be in control of the pitching staff. The offensive part of their game will come with time, but they must be able work well behind the plate if they're going to get into the lineup.

That's why this preseason he worked most with Amaral, a 17th-round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers, on his throwing mechanics.

"He came in and his throwing was at time erratic and at this level you can't miss opportunities," Martin Jr. said. "He's throwing a lot better, he's working on the blocking and the receiving and things like that. The bat, you'll notice I haven't said anything about it, I don't care about that. We're not concerned with that. We want a guy to run this pitching staff and play defense."

Sitz to start the year at closer

With graduation of closer Daniel Bennett, FSU has had to look for a new answer at the end of the game for 2012.

As of now, it looks like junior Scott Sitz will be the guy with the ball in his hand in the ninth inning.

"We're looking at Scotty Stiz right now as our closer," Martin said. "That is not sealed in concrete. He's been challenged every time that he's been out there by putting some of our better hitters at the plate and he answered the bell and I'll be anxious to see how that materializes."

Last season, Sitz appeared in 18 games, made eight starts and finished with a record of 4-2 with a 5.92 ERA. He struck out 33 batters and earned one save in his 51.2 innings of work.

FSU pitching coach Mike Bell said that Sitz has looked good in the closer role thus far. To be able to tell if Sitz can handle the role won't just be based on performance, Bell said, but rather how he bounces back following the nights he doesn't get the job done.

"What's going to make our closer is when he doesn't have success on Saturday, but we need on him Sunday can he get back up the next day and be mentally tough and ride that horse and have a short-term memory in that bullpen?" Bell said. "There's going to be times in a game of failure where our hitters are going to strike out and out pitchers aren't going to have their best outing. But can they come back the next time when we stick with them and get them prepared to do the job?"

Winston signing will have big impact for FSU baseball

When five-star quarterback Jameis Winston's letter of intent finally came through the FSU fax machine on nine days ago, it was just Jimbo Fisher and his staff that let out a big sigh of relief.

The Seminoles' baseball coaching staff was also tremendously pleased with the news as well. Winston is not only rated the nation's top 2012 quarterback, but his also a highly regarded baseball prospect too.

Perfectgame.org ranks him the No. 22 player in country for the class of 2012.

"Jameis is one of the top athletes in the country," Mike Martin said of Winston. "Mike Martin, Jr., has seen him play and speaks highly of his ability to play baseball professionally. We are excited that he is going to be with us. We are going to look at Jameis as both an outfielder and a pitcher. As I said, he is a better person than he is a player and that is saying a lot."

After signing with FSU, Winston said he relationship with Coach Martin and his staff had a big impact on his recruitment.

Winston said it would take "a lot" for him to sign a professional baseball contract after this summer's Major League Baseball draft and give up playing both sports at FSU.

As a junior, Winston hit .370 for Hueytown (Ala.) High and went 7-2 on the mound. He said he sees his future as a position player rather than on the mound, but didn't rule out doing both for the Seminoles.

"I play center field. I'm around 89 to 92 (on the mound)," he said. "I've touched 94 a couple times. I see myself being drafted more as a position player. If I keep working on my game anything is possible."

Noteworthy

  • Mike Martin announced his weekend rotation. He will go with freshman lefty Brandon Leibrandt on Friday, sophomore RHP Peter Miller on Saturday and freshman RHP Mike Compton on Sunday. Warchant.com will have a story on the new rotation later this week.

  • Freshman RHP Luke Weaver will start the first mid-week game of the year against Jacksonville University on Tuesday, Feb. 21.



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