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2015 Alabama Baseball Primer : Pitching

A preview of the men who will toe the rubber for the Tide this spring.

Filling Turnbull's shoes won't be easy.
Filling Turnbull's shoes won't be easy.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team readies for the new season amid the chaos of cranes, dump trucks and jack hammers. The confusion will ultimately be worth it, as their home field, Sewell-Thomas Field ("The Joe") is being totally rebuilt. The field work began in August and will continue until completion, scheduled for October 2015. The team's new indoor hitting and pitching facility was finished in mid January, and the players have been able to take advantage of it already.

The team will be road warriors this year, as their home games will be played at The Hoover Met for the most part. 'Bama will also play one series in Mobile at Hank Aaron Stadium on March 6, 7,and 8, when they host Lipscomb University out of Nashville. The Tide has practiced on what is left of Sewell-Thomas (most of the field itself) and have held full scrimmage in Hoover as the team tries to become familiar with the nuances of their temporary home. The Met did pull in the fences five to 10 feet, and along with the new ball (MiLB ball, with seams that aren't as raised) so hopefully the Tide can still generate some power in the spacious park.

With The Met being a bigger park, 'Bama has been focusing on playing more small ball, bunting, stealing bases, and hit-and-run. The team also lost power hitters in Austen Smith, Wade Wass and Ben Moore, who all moved on to pro ball. The whole weekend starting pitching rotation will also need to be replaced. Spencer Turnbull was a second round choice of the Detroit Tigers and Justin Kamplain was taken by the New York Yankees in the 18th round. The third starter, Jon Keller had Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2015 season.

Candidates for the rotation include senior left-hander Taylor Guilbeau, junior righty Will Carter, sophomore right-hander Geoffrey Bramblett (a Hoover native), sophomore righty Nick Eicholtz, and freshman right-hander Andrew DiPiazza. Guilbeau has been rated the third best senior pro prospect by Perfect Game and has experience. The Zachary, Louisiana native had an up and down year last season, but pitched a complete game victory to keep the Tide alive in regional play in Tallahassee in his last appearance. Guilbeau seems ready and focused to have a superb senior campaign. The 6 foot 4 inch lefty is showing better command of his pitches and should be a front line starter for the team. Coach Mitch Gaspard says " Taylor is a guy that has been here a while, knows how we do things, and we feel is ready to make the next step to being a legitimate SEC type weekend starter."

Carter is a junior college transfer from Walters State CC. Carter, a Gray, Tennessee product, had arm surgery and only pitched a handful of games at the end of last year. Carter did enough in those few games to be drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 35th round, but chose to come to Alabama in lieu of signing a professional contract. Coach Mitch Gaspard says that "Carter is a guy with a high upside, that we look at as a top of the rotation guy."

Sophomore Bramblett had a solid freshman season and looks to build on his 5-2 record with a 3.40 ERA. Bramblett, like Guilbeau, pitched a complete game victory for the Tide in regional play last spring. Eicholtz, also a sophomore, had a up and down freshman season, but finished with a 3-2 record and a 3.35 ERA in 51 innings pitched in 2014. DiPiazza is a big (6 foot 6 inch), hard throwing right-hander and a New Jersey native, and was named the 44th ranked freshman prospect by Perfect Game.

The bullpen will be led by freshman All-American closer Thomas Burrows who posted a 4-2 record with 11 saves and a 2.15 ERA in 2014. Fifth year senior Jay Shaw will bring a ton of maturity and experience to the team and posted a 2-3 record and 3.48 ERA. Shaw is valuable for his ability to pitch situationally to one or two batters, or in long relief, going multiple innings. Jake Hubbard will be almost two years clear of Tommy John surgery and will be another experienced, hard throwing arm. The red shirt junior has built is velocity back up to 92-93 mph. Ray Castillo returns for his junior year, and looks to return to the success of his freshman year, when he was an All American as the teams closer. The righty from Phenix City battled some arm issues last year, but looks healthy and ready to go this season.

Freshman Alex Watkins, a 6 foot 4, 165 pound string bean from Albertville High School is a left handed pitcher with outstanding off-speed pitches. Watkins will be a valuable piece of the bullpen. Lefty Colton Freeman is a hard thrower that could be a contributor as well. Mitch Greer returns for his junior year and throws in the low to mid 90's, and looks to be a help as well. Big red shirt freshman, Tyler Adams, and a pair of freshman, Zac Rogers and Jake Walters also offer depth to the teams pitching staff. A wild card is utility man,J C Wilhite. He can play infield, outfield, DH and catcher, but is showing even more versatility by becoming a side armed relief pitcher. It seems like every team the Tide plays has at least one guy like that, and the typically give teams trouble for an inning or so. Wilhite should have chances to do so for the Tide.

Because of length, I will divide this into two stories, and will spotlight the position players in another article in the next few days. The season opens in Hoover on February 13th when Maryland Eastern Shore comes to town for a three game series. Friday's game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m, Saturday will start 2:00 p.m. and Sunday's first pitch is 1:00 p.m.

Roll Tide Yall

Bama Baseball Fever, catch it. Follow me on twitter @rogerpatmyers for live in-game updates and other news.