As he stood just outside of the home dugout inside Dick Howser Stadium, senior pitcher Hunter Scantling looked noticeably different.
The 6-foot-8 pitcher is still larger than the rest of his teammates, but enters this season in the best shape of his career.
The Jacksonville native lost 15 pounds since the end of last season to better prepare himself for his final season.
"I've lost some weight, I'm trying to keep losing some more, to better myself for the team and for myself," Scantling said. "Whatever I do, I'll do it gladly and I'll do it to the best of my ability."
Last season, Scantling made 17 appearances (12 starts) and finished with a 3-3 record and a 4.45 ERA. His fastball topped out around 87 mph, but with the weight loss, his fastball is already improved to 90-91 mph.
Since it's just two weeks into full squad practices for the team, it's tough to tell if the weight loss will truly benefit Scantling's stamina and velocity. Head coach Mike Martin said that is the hope, but it's too early to know how it will affect Scantling. Martin said Thursday that Scantling will not be a part of the rotation to start the year.
"I hope that he is able to sustain energy for longer periods of time and go six or seven (innings) if he's used in that role because of the weight loss," Martin said. "But at the same time I think it has enabled him to-I've seen the fastball gain a couple miles an hour. The slider was always his best pitch, I want that to be a good pitch for him, but I wanted him to throw 90 and 91 and I'm seeing some of that."
Scantling said he didn't have to change his diet too much to lose the weight, but had to just eat smaller portions of what he was already eating. During the fall he and fellow pitchers Brian Busch and Scott Stiz would put in extra work together with the strength staff.
"A lot of (the credit) has to towards our strength and conditioning coach (Adam Ross) and Coach (Mike) Bell," Scantling said. "In the offseason, three days a week in the morning we'd come in and get some extra work … we did a little extra running and we met with a dietitian to make sure we're eating right. We've just got to keep it up throughout the season."
Catcher Stephen McGee said he can already see a difference in Scanting. Not only has his velocity improved, but so has his control.
"His velocity has been getting up there and my biggest thing is he's been hitting spots with his fastball," McGee said. "As long as the velocity is there that's a plus and as long he keeps hitting his spots he's going to do real well."
Bell, who was hired to replace longtime pitching coach Jamey Shouppe this offseason, thinks that there will be physical results for Scantling due to the improved physique. But the greatest gains he makes could be mental.
"Baseball is such a mental game," Bell said. "I think when you feel yourself doing things like that - and I think you will see the results on a performance standpoint. If it's a short (relief outing) for him I think he's going to be able to bounce back quicker. If it's a starting situation for him I think he's going to have the ability to maintain a little bit longer in the game. More than anything physically it's going to help him, but it's also going to help him a lot psychologically."
Scantling admitted that the weight loss has already given him a little more self-confidence on the mound. Something that the pitcher obviously needed considering he lasted just 13 pitches during his last competitive trip to the mound, an 11-2 loss to Texas A&M to eliminated FSU from postseason play in the NCAA Super Regionals.
"It's just made a big difference in me just on and off the field," Scantling said. "Just having the self-confidence to go out there knowing I feel good."