Saturday, August 16, 2008

Price counting on ballyhooed recruits


Rarely one to avoid hyperbole, Ritch Price nonetheless raised more than a few eyebrows when he announced his group of signees.

After revealing the names of those nine recruits - six of them pitchers - Kansas University's seventh-year baseball coach boasted that this recruiting class ":may be the finest in Kansas baseball history."

Following a disappointing tie for last place in the Big 12 Conference last spring, the Jayhawks certainly could use an infusion of new talent - on the mound, in particular.

Kansas pitchers combined for a 5.49 earned-run average, ninth worst in the Big 12, as Price kept searching for answers after two of his projected starters - left-handers Andy Marks and Wally Marciel - suffered arm injuries.

If Marks, who missed the entire season because of a shoulder ailment, doesn't suffer any rehab setbacks he could return to duty next spring.

"The key is his health," Price said. "Marks would be our No. 1 pitcher if he's healthy."

Marciel, who made only nine mound appearances last spring before behind shut down, underwent Tommy John surgery in May and will miss the '09 season while rehabbing.

Without Marks and Marciel during the Big 12 portion of the schedule, Price struggled to find reliable starters.

Among those pressed into duty were T.J. Walz (4-1, 5.00 ERA) and Shaeffer Hall (4-2, 5.13 ERA), a pair of freshmen who weren't quite ready for prime-time but now are Price's most experienced returning starters.

Of Price's half-dozen pitching signees, the most promising is Shawnee Mission West High product Lee Ridenhour, a strong-armed right-hander who was named Kansas prep player of the year.

Ridenhour was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the June draft, but as of midsummer had not signed and, said Price: "We're hopeful of holding on to him."

Another possibility for a starting berth is Tyler Blankenship, a left-hander out of Free State High who spent the last two seasons at Johnson County CC where he established a handful of school pitching records.

Blankenship isn't a fire-baller, but Price says the former Firebird "has a chance to get in the mix, either in the bullpen or as a starter."

Price isn't likely to rush the other four pitching prospects - Kelson Boyer of Free State, Tom Taylor of Blue Valley West, Colton Murray of Shawnee Mission East and Kevin Burk of Warrensburg, Mo.

Boyer, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, went undefeated as a junior at Eudora High (9-0) in 2007 and as a senior (5-0) for Free State's Sunflower League champions.

Two of Price's new pitchers may not be limited to mound duty. Murray will also get a look as an infielder, and Ridenhour is projected as a potential outfielder.

In the field, Price has three positions available because of graduated players.

John Allman, who paced the Jayhawks with a .365 batting average, and Ryne Price, the team leader in home runs (11) and RBIs (60), left vacancies in the corner outfield positions as did Erik Morrison at shortstop.

Sophomores Casey Lytle and Jimmy Waters will battle for the outfield openings along with freshmen Jake Marasco of Maize and Jason Brunansky of Poway, Calif. Brunansky is a son of former major-league outfielder Tom Brunansky.

Of the six returning regulars, senior center fielder Nick Faunce (.326) was the only one to log a plus-.300 batting average in '08. Also returning are second baseman Robby Price (.296), third baseman Tony Thompson (.276), DH Casey Larson (.271), catcher Buck Afenir (.253) and first baseman Preston Land (.221).


number1jayhawker 13 years, 9 months ago

Finally he's loading up on some of the talent here in the midwest. These guys know what it's like to play ball in the cold. Something some of the west coast kids couldn't adapt to.

FlaHawk 13 years, 9 months ago

Numero Uno Jayhaaker,You made a very good point. I think Price originally thought he could get by with his pipline to has Cali roots. Other than his son's, we have NOT got much out of this especially pitching.Midwest talent does not compare wioth Clai talent, but when you throw in the inhospitable weather of Midwest college baseball, it levels out a bit :-)!

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