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Martin Jr. seeking to evaluate depth, solidify infield, rotation

Florida State’s starting outfield — Reese Albert, Robby Martin and Elijah Cabell — is essentially set. Matheu Nelson will start at catcher. Parker Messick is in the weekend rotation.

Beyond that? Mike Martin Jr. hasn’t made any decisions, preferring to let scrimmages later Friday and over the weekend help establish how the Seminoles will look on opening weekend.

“Those infield positions are all wide open,” Martin Jr. said. “It’s made guys a lot better. They understand that competition makes us all better and they know that’s kind of one of the staples of the program. Nothing is going to be handed to you. You’ve got to earn it.”

The same is true for the rotation, where Messick could be the ace in what is shaping up to be a very deep pitching staff. Martin Jr. has said he is seeking eight reliable starting options in case COVID positives or contact tracing sideline some arms. Beyond Messick, a left-hander who had a 0.77 ERA in six appearances in 2020 but also was the top pitcher in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, has ensured a spot in the rotation. Messick went 3-0 with a 0.49 ERA in 18.2 innings for the Winter Garden Squeeze. 

Other options in the rotation include veterans like right-handers Conor Grady, Bryce Hubbart, Dylan Simmons and Jack Anderson as well as freshmen like RHP Carson Montgomery and junior-college transfer RHP Hunter Perdue.

“The only thing I’m willing to disclose is Parker Messick being somewhere in the top three,” Martin Jr. said. “I want to see guys that see if they can hold their velocity into the later innings. And this is the last chance for that to happen. And, obviously, you’re building them up. So these guys will be going to 65-70 pitches.”

Because of the five-round 2020 MLB draft, FSU is loaded with veteran pitchers and also has newcomers (like Montgomery) who bypassed pro baseball to come to FSU. That gives the Seminoles not only options for starters but also middle relief and closers. Among the potential choices for significant roles in the bullpen are Chase Haney, Clayton Kwiatkowski and Jonah Scolaro — all of whom could have been selected in a traditional, longer 40-round draft — and Tyler Ahearn.

Depth and the competition it creates are good to have leading up to the season. Martin Jr. also said he would like to have a clearly defined closer emerge by the start of the season and looks to give them a few more appearances on the mound this weekend.

“There’s literally three guys that are in the mix to do it,” Martin Jr. said. “You got two more opportunities.”

FSU opens the 2021 season on Friday (Feb. 19) against North Florida at 6 p.m. The Seminoles and Ospreys will also play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. While a schedule of games to be streamed or televised has not been set, ACC Network Extra is expected to broadcast games.