College Baseball Daily continues our series of interviews with coaches across the country today with Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson. He is entering his third season as the head coach after spending five years as the pitching coach with the Wildcats. They are coming off a 31-25 campaign and went 13-17 in SEC play.
CBD: Kentucky is coming off a 31-25 campaign in 2010 in which they went 13-17 in SEC play. What are your early expectations for the 2011 season and what will be some of the biggest challenges to this year’s squad?
“Our top challenges heading into the spring will be solidifying our bullpen roles and nailing down the open infield positions. We had great competition this fall and that will continue into the spring. Our pitching staff and team defense will be much improved from last year and we will work hard to repeat last year’s offensive balance, where we ranked first in stolen bases and second in home runs.”
CBD: Taylor Rogers and Jordan Cooper both stepped up as freshmen to give the Wildcats quality innings on the mound. Alex Meyer also comes back as one of the top pro prospects in the 2011 MLB Draft. Who do you see challenging these three for a spot in the weekend rotation?
“Coming out of fall practice, Jordan (Copper), Alex (Meyer) and Taylor (Rogers) would be in the lead for weekend starting roles. All three are returning SEC starters and were stronger and consistently showed improved stuff and command throughout the fall. I’m excited about their development and expect them to be an outstanding weekend rotation. We have a solid corp of freshmen and sophomores that will compete for the fourth and fifth starting spot.”
“We have several returning starters that we will lean on early in the year for leadership. Chad Wright, Braden Kapteyn and Taylor Black played substantial roles on last year’s club and they will be called upon to do so this year. I am very interested in seeing who steps forward to take or demand the leadership role as the season progresses.”
CBD: Have any of the incoming freshmen impressed you during Fall workouts? Do you expect any of them to break into the starting lineup/rotation this spring?
“This year’s group of freshmen is as impressive as any that I have been around since I have been at Kentucky. We are very pleased with the development on the mound of Corey Littrell, Trevor Gott and Jonathan Paquet. Positionally, very happy with the development of Dallen Reber, Paul McConkey, J.T. Riddle, Matt Redia and Lucas Witt. It will be a very good battle to see which of them can crack the starting lineup. I expect that several of them will get opportunities but right now Reida is the most developed defensive infielder of the group and Lucas Witt has established himself as someone who deserves to be given an opportunity in the outfield. I expect that we will see several of them over the course of the season.”
CBD: The SEC won their second straight national championship with South Carolina’s sweep over UCLA. The Florida Gators also qualified for the College World Series out of the SEC. Who do you see as the early favorite in the conference?
“This is always a tough question from year to year because you never know who is going to stay healthy from start to finish. Looking at it on paper, I would have to say the early favorites would be the Gators and Vanderbilt.”
“We did have the opportunity to use the new bats throughout the fall. My thoughts are that the impact of the bats is going to be a little less then what initially was thought by the coaches. As the fall went on, our kids were acclimated to the bats. Their strokes flattened out and they got shorter. I anticipate that the power numbers across college baseball will be reduced but the impact on batting averages will be much less then what was initially forecasted.”
CBD: We have now been through three seasons with the Uniform Start Date being in effect. What is your opinion on the rule change? Has it been a good move?
“I would personally like to see the season start sooner. I don’t know if it has been a good move or a bad move for college baseball.”
College Baseball Daily would like to thank Gary Henderson for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. Special thanks to Kentucky Assistant Sports Information Director Brent Ingram in setting up the interview. If any other SID’s or coaches would like to be featured in the future feel free to send me an email by clicking here.