Monday, February 23, 2009

Observations from opening weekend

It seems like the opening weekend of the 2009 season took forever to get here. And it did. Darn universal start date (two years ago USD and San Diego State had played more than a dozen games by this point). But that's an old rant. What's new? Here's a few observations:

— Friday's season opener gave us the first glimpse of SDSU All-American Stephen Strasburg, and the junior right-hander from West Hill High didn't disappoint. Strasburg opened the game with a 98 mph fastball, touched 99 later in the inning and dominated Bethune Cookman. And it wasn't as if Strasburg was in midseason form. He struggled more with his .

— There were several memorable moments Saturday at the MLB Urban Youth Academy, from Duke Snider and Frank Robinson throwing out first pitches to the Bethune Cookman and Southern marching bands entertaining the crowd. The 60-member Bethune band, accompanied by four gyrating dancers, livened things up along the third-base line adjacent to the USD dugout. They were all over Toreros shortstop Sean Nicol whenever he jogged back to the dugout after an at-bat, giving Nicol his marching orders: "left, right, left, right, left, right. . . ." Among those introduced during the day was actor James Van Der Beek. His baseball connection wasn't clear. I don't recall ever seeing him swing a bat on "Dawson's Creek." He did make a pitch for Katie Holmes, though.

— The Toreros have high hopes this season for USD sophomore right-hander Kyle Blair, but he was plagued Saturday against Bethune Cookman with the inconsistency that marked his freshman season last year. He hit three batters in the first inning, and was further hindered by the plate umpire's inability to identify the strike zone. Blair bears watching to see how quickly he can get it together. When he was good last year, he was great.

— A couple of local freshmen made impressive debuts. USD's Austin Green (Patrick Henry), who got an opportunity with teammate Bryan Haar (Grossmont) nursing a sore hamstring, collected a few hits to make a case for a regular spot in the starting lineup. SDSU's Ryan O'Sullivan stood out defensively at shortstop. It's early — real early — but O'Sullivan has the potential to be something special for the Aztecs before he's done.

— If SDSU junior right-hander Tyler Lavigne is even close to as good this season as he was in pitching a two-hitter Sunday at USD, then the Aztecs' starting rotation could have the depth to carry the club to the postseason for the first time since 1991.

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