Mike Martin Jr. says not much has changed for him as he begins his first spring as Florida State’s baseball coach.
But for the Seminoles, it is clear that the pace of practice and intensity has picked up.
FSU opened full team workouts for the 2020 season on Friday afternoon, three weeks before the season opens on Feb. 14 against Niagra. Players said they miss seeing Mike Martin Sr. but have adapted quickly to Martin Jr.
“It’s a lot more action out here at practice,” veteran outfielder Reese Albert said. “He’s been everything I’ve expected. He’s working real hard, he’s very focused. It’s going to be a great season.”
While there are question marks across the infield, FSU has the pitching staff to ensure that 2020 will be a successful one. The Seminoles have one of the ACC’s top pitchers in right-hander C.J. Van Eyk (10-4, 3.81 ERA, 129 strikeouts and 41 walks in 99.1 innings) to be the Friday night starter in rotation that also includes RHP Conor Grady (9-6, 71 strikeouts and 26 walks in 64.1 innings) and left-hander Shane Drohan (3-1, 3.66 ERA, 71 strikeouts in 51.2 innings).
“I think it’s top 5 in the country,” Martin Jr. said. “I think we’re going to be there at the end of the year as well with the numbers to prove it. We’re going to use a lot of them, but I want those guys to have as many opportunities when they get in the postseason.”
The bullpen should also be a strength with left-handers Antonio Velez, Jonah Scolaro and Clayton Kwiatkowski and right-hander Chase Haney. Defined roles – who will close, who may be a long reliever – are not yet defined.
The starting outfield is set with Albert, Robby Martin and Elijah Cabell. Albert or Cabell will likely be starting in center.
Aside from Nander de Sedas at shortstop, the rest of the infield is up for grabs. Cooper Swanson and Tyrell Brewer were among those working at third base on Friday. Brewer, a freshman from Orlando, displayed a strong arm. Jackson Greene and Danny Andzel were among a group at second base, while Carter Smith likely has the inside track at first base. Smith has experience at first and flashes a consistent glove, picking grounders out of the dirt.
“I feel like our best bets are to platoon guys,” Martin Jr. said.
Albert returns from shoulder surgery
Albert’s return after offseason shoulder surgery has been a welcome sign. The junior was limited in the postseason at the plate, had surgery over the summer and missed all of fall ball.
But Albert, who hit .283 with nine home runs and 35 RBI, said he began hitting live pitching a few weeks ago and feels confident at the plate.
“Everything has been going well so far,” Albert said. “I never have to worry about that in the back of my head when I’m about to swing. Really thankful for that. It couldn’t be going better.”
Albert could hit No. 3 or clean-up, offering a big, left-handed bat who is capable of driving in runs.
“It’s very comforting because you know what you’re going to get,” Martin Jr. said. “He plays hard. He leads by example. He makes your lineup a lot better.”
The FSU baseball team will host its leadoff dinner on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. Tickets range from $30-$75. More information can be found here.