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Baseball: Coach Price on Team Goals, Injuries and Roster

KU Baseball head coach Ritch Price met with me today to go over the roster and team outlook.  I’ll flesh out the upcoming team preview stories with quotes drawn from today’s interview.  Ritch Price has been a good friend to Rock Chalk Talk; this is the third straight year that he has made time for this pre-season talk.  Over the last six years Price has done an excellent job recruiting prospects, improving the facilities and increasing the team’s media profile.  While I am as disappointed as any fan in how the last two seasons ended I am sure KU baseball is moving in the right direction under Price.


Aside from our discussions about individual players a few other topics came up:


Team goals for 2009:

Anyone who follows NCAA baseball knows that the Big-12 is one of the four dominate conferences in the sport.  Along with the ACC, SEC and Pac-10 the Big-12 claimed 22 of the 34 NCAA at-large bids in last year’s championship tournament.  This year the Big-12 looks even stronger and Kansas is rebuilding after a 9th place 2008 finish.  Only the top eight teams in the Big-12 are invited to the conference tournament.  Coach Price and I agreed that a realistic goal for the team this year would be to earn a slot in the eight team tournament field and accumulate 30 total wins.  I am a fan, and I love the Hawks, but I think these goals are realistic.  Coach Price said that if the team hits those marks he will consider the season to be a success.


Editor's Note: The rest of the interview is contained after the jump. Make sure and click through, it's fabulous stuff... -- RC



It seems to me that KU has had more than its share of limping players the last two years.  If healthy Wally Marciel and Andy Marks would be the team’s top two starters and mentioned among the conference’s better pitchers.  Both will miss significant time this year, if not the whole season.


Two summers ago Marks was all over the national scouting reports after pitching a no-hitter in the North Woods summer league.  Frustratingly Andy has not pitched an inning at KU since that summer.  After two surgeries Marks has worked his way up to throwing light bullpen sessions.  His chances of pitching competitively this year are still somewhat up in the air.  If all goes well with his recovery Andy will start working out of the bullpen later this season and build from there.  He is eligible to return in 2010, and Price does not want to do anything to jeopardize his professional prospects, so I am sure the team will be cautious with him.


Wally Marciel was named to the PING national all-Freshman team back in 2007 and looked great in his first three starts of 2008 but then his season completely unraveled.  Texas, Ohio State and Texas A&M all treated him roughly.  Price said that Wally was trying to pitch through what he believed to be a sore elbow at the time and only discovered he needed surgery after having an MRI.  Price said Marciel is "way ahead of schedule" in his rehab but the team will "wait the full twelve months" before putting him back on the mound.  With luck the "RMSD" will be back on the rubber in April.


The injuries do not stop at Marks and Marciel.  Jordan Jakubov (RHP), a highly recruited player out of Maize high school in Kansas will miss all of 2009 due to injury.  Jakubov took a red shirt last year so has yet to appear in a game as a Jayhawk.  At 6’4 and 200 lbs he has a pro build and was named a Louisville Slugger All-American his senior year.  He looks like he could make an impact if healthy.  Incoming freshman Thomas Taylor (RHP, 6'4 180 lbs) also looked ready to assume a prominent role on the team this year.  Instead Taylor was lost for the season last fall when he also went under the knife for Tommy John surgery.


At the media day news conference Coach Price was asked why so many college pitchers were having Tommy John surgery over the last few years.  Price thought that the culprit might be the growth of summer travel baseball teams.  Prep players now often play 50 or 60 games a year before they ever enter college.  Price said he has his entire pitching staff on a 100 pitch count limit.


Jared Meggison, another good looking freshman (RHP, 6’3, 215 lbs) is also nursing an injury although hopefully this one will not require more than rehab.  He has a stubborn pulled muscle in his side.  Price expects him to contribute by April.


35 Man Roster:

In its second year the new NCAA 35-man roster rule hit KU.  NCAA teams can only carry 35 players on their roster, and apparently any player receiving scholarship money, even if injured for a full season, must be counted.  This year Price had to let go two players who in past years would have made the team.  Zach Thoma, who looked like he might compete for the starting shortstop job this year, and Daniel Manos, a LHP who transferred into KU last year, are off the roster.


Price was not happy to lose these players.  He said of Thoma, "He would have made the team.  He is a good kid and a good player.  He transferred to Central Michigan where his father played.  He’ll have to sit out this spring."  While I hate to lose players I think overall KU will benefit from this new NCAA rule.  In the past the highest profile programs, such as Texas, Florida, etc., carried well over 40 D-I level players a year.  The new rule will help spread the wealth more evenly.