Q How have the new assistant coaches (Rick Greene and Martin Partida) positively impacted the team?
APartida has placed an emphasis on hitting line drives and ground balls, and going the other way with the pitch — forcing the defense to make a play to record an out. Greene has brought a new approach, emphasizing statistical analysis, to the way the Jaguars will teach pitching this season.
Q Losing all three weekend starters from last season, who is expected to fill those roles?
A“Right now we don’t know that. We are going to use the next three weekends of play to try and figure that out. We won’t know who are weekend guys are going to be until we get into conference play,” Southern coach Roger Cador said.
Q Last in the SWAC with 35 stolen bases and third-worst in runs last season — how will SU improve those areas?
AThe Jaguars are poised to be better on the basepaths with Tyler Kirksey and Lance Jones leading the way. Cador also said he expects there will be a lot more attempted bunts this season: sacrificing and bunting for base hits.
Q How will playing time be distributed in a talented, but crowded outfield?
ACador says the plan is to platoon up to five outfielders. Tyler Kirksey, Lance Jones and Stephen Wallace almost certainly will be everyday players, while Sean Washington and Gavin Webster will platoon. With Wallace and Kirksey missing extensive time last season with injuries, it’s reassuring to have a surplus of capable outfielders.
Q What has made Cador successful in his 29 seasons as head coach?
A“It’s a gift I inherited from my father. He had wonderful instincts I’d admire. ... God gave me a gift to love people and talk to everybody. … There are too many people who think they are more than others, especially when they get a title, and they forget about the little people. And the little people end up being the ones who help you,” Cador said.
IN THE FIELD:
C Jose DeLaTorre
DeLaTorre returns but is currently nursing a thumb injury. A power hitter who tends to become too focused on pulling the baseball, the coaching staff would rather see him hitting the ball where it’s pitched.
1B Bryan Rowry
Big, physical presence at first base standing 6-foot-4. Cador is hopeful Rowry will display more aggressiveness on the diamond. Experienced, team player.
2B Marcus Tomlin
Described by Cador as the ultimate team player. An honor student in the classroom who’s willing to put his body on the line for his teammates and a chance at victory. Additionally, Tomlin is a utility player who can play second, third base, shortstop and even catcher.
SS Bud Morton
Described by Cador as a player who doesn’t do anything fantastic but does everything well. The “leader” on the field for the Jaguars.
3B Harley Wiltz
Batting third in the order, Wiltz is a consistent hitter who sprays the ball to all fields.
LF Tyler Kirksey
Kirksey posted a .919 OPS in limited action (23 games) last season. Possesses a blend of tremendous speed to go with extra-base pop — making him ideal to hit second.
CF Lance Jones
Labelled by Cador to have “Olympic-type speed” but also a polished base stealer. Jones will begin the year leading off.
RF Stephen Wallace
Attempting to rebound from an injury-plagued 2013 which limited him to 43 at-bats, Wallace will provide the power bat in the middle of the order. His confidence allows him to come through in crucial situations.
DH Almann Snowden
A power hitter from the left side who is slated to hit sixth — allowing the Jaguars to break up all the right handers in the lineup, giving them a solid balance
IN THE ROTATION:
No. 1 J.P. France He’s the first Tulane freshman to start the season-opener since Ivan Zweig in 1991 and earned it by displaying excellent control of the strike zone in preseason scrimmages.
No. 2 Randy LeBlanc The senior has had an up-and-down career due to injuries and spotty control. However, he still has the bility to overwhelm hitters when things are going right and isn’t fazed by a bad outing or a bad break.
No. 3 Tyler Mapes After missing the last three months of last season after Tommy John surgery, Mapes came back with impeccable control in three scrimmages, despite a dip in velocity which Jones believes is temporary.
No. 4 Corey Merrill Another freshman who impressed the staff with his command in the strike zone, the Lutcher product is a tall right-hander who can consistently place his fastball, curveball and changeup on the edges.
IN THE BULLPEN:
RP Cade LeBlanc, Jacob Polk, Connor Baumgardner LeBlanc will serve as the lefty-on-lefty specialist, while Cador spoke highly of the freshman Polk. Baumgardner is also expected to contribute heavily out of the bullpen. Baumgardner features an arsenal of pitches that sink, move and dance away from hitters which allows him to be matchup-proof.
CLOSER Sam May May will open the season as the closer. Cador did not rule out that the fact there could be a second closer to join May in slamming the door on opponents, citing circumstances in which a closer would have to extend himself more than an inning or two.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Lee-Hines Field.