Photo via Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee baseball dropped game two of its weekend series against Florida Friday night. The Gators rocked Tennessee starter Chase Burns and pushed him from the game after just three innings.
The Vols recorded just six hits and had only eight baserunners while recording double digit strikeouts for the second straight game.
Tony Vitello discussed Burns’ continuous struggles, what the Vols need to do and much more.
Here’s everything Vitello said after the loss.
More From RTI: Bad Ball Sinks Tennessee Baseball In Game Two
On Maui Ahuna being scratched from the lineup
“From what I know and I’ll go in there right after this and see what our assessment is for tomorrow. He’s been kind of fighting some discomfort. I mentioned on the television broadcast that there was a play I thought he would make and it was kind of like, ‘oh yeah, he’s not moving as well as he can’ and tonight it kind of reached a breaking point. I don’t know if the weather or the grind of the last few days of him battling through that got to him, but I got word that he was a no-go and needed to switch things on the fly. So, I got to it as fast as I can.
“I don’t want to say back and be wrong, but something on the back-side of his body.”
On Chase Burns’ struggles
“The first inning was — I hate to focus on one area, but that’s just kind of what pops into my mind. The first inning was tough. I think there’s two walks in there, shook to a pitch that maybe we’d all like to redo but you can’t go back in time and do it. And we all know my theory, if the guy gets underneath it a little bit and it’s the third out of the inning, or C Scott makes a phenomenal play or something like that, maybe we’re not even talking about it and he cruises. But frustration for us as well as him on the outing.”
On the key to Burns to put his last couple of outings in the rearview and get it going
“Stay true to your roots. I’m just going off the cuff, but stay true to your roots. A lot of times when guys have success and then it gets derailed at some point, whether it be during their college career or a guy you watch in the big leagues, there’s extra problems that are created and it’s almost kind of a you could kind of trim the fat type of thing and get back to who you are and what got you in that position that you’re in like starting on an SEC weekend. Maybe getting back to it is something individually for him. Maybe he and Coach A (Frank Anderson) hook up on something, but I know they’ve had discussions. That’s my gut answer, is stay true to your roots.”
On Bryce Jenkins’ outing out of the bullpen
“It was awesome. We anticipated that he would serve as a major factor for us kind of like he’s done this weekend. You come in and get (Josh) Rivera out and then on top of it, he does what he did tonight, is really, really good. He just needed to get his cleats in the ground and get some repetitions at the division one level to feel comfortable because you could kind of see it in the first outing out in Arizona and a couple of other times. I wouldn’t say anxious, but not as smooth as he had been in the scrimmages. Tonight, even last night, kind of had that smooth, calm approach. Looks like an athlete out there like he is. He’ll tell you he’s a superstar basketball player even though he’s not. Obviously the stuff is good enough to do a lot of things.”
On starting Jake Kendro over Austen Jaslove in place of Maui Ahuna
“It was real quick. He (Kendro) and Jassy are our two guys that are options in the infield. They can play all three of those positions well and are probably pretty equal in what they do. Kendro has hit righties a little bit better than Jassy in the past so that’s what we looked to do and thought about utilizing Jaslove but was waiting for the right time with a lefty. We’ll see, both of those guys can play those positions. CMo can play shortstop. We’ve moved guys around a bunch in scrimmages.”
On if Chase Burns is lacking confidence
“Wouldn’t be able to speak intelligently. I don’t see anything that would make me knee jerk answer that one yes. Again, I think probably frustration. It seems like all the breaks are going against you when it’s not going well. I didn’t get this call, we could have made this play, we could have scored more runs. Whatever it might be. You start looking at those things and maybe that feeds into my last answer about creating the problem that’s not a problem. Again, I’m just standing here on turf giving you my best answers. We all know what the guy is capable of doing and if I find the recipe I’ll give it to him but probably ultimately up to him, and his teammates, on game day getting back to his roots and doing what he’s capable (of). Not trying to do more. Not trying to do less and when things get going I think the frustrations can pile up not just for him but for everybody and you can’t do that. There’s things I’m frustrated about from yesterday but going into today’s game you’ve got to just focus on doing the best you can. That’s what we’re all trying to do hopefully.”
On if the poor pitching is affecting the offense
“I don’t want to take away from the two guys that— I don’t know how high they can go. It’s not my job but the two guys they’ve had on the mound have thrown very well for themselves. Late in the game it might be a little bit cause now you have to play strategy and the guys coming out of the bullpen can let it rip. They’ve had two really good starting pitchers throw great against us and I think just big picture, any baseball team I’ve been a part of and this one in particular, yeah, if you’re not scoring the pitchers can start to try to be a little too perfect. If the defense doesn’t make a play, same thing. It’s all the same thing. You have to kind of take a deep breathe and you let the frustrations pile up you’re actually going to create more than actually exist so you’ve got to understand, defense helps offense. It’s like that in basketball. Our team’s best offense was probably their defense at times so it all kind of feeds each other and I don’t have an educated way of saying it right now other than Happy Gilmore— feeling the flow, riding the bull. WHen you’re doing that everybody is working together and certainly some guys are going to make mistakes but if you point out the mistakes and now I have to hit a two-run homer because we just gave up a run or I’ve got to strike this guy out because we didn’t score the run from third last inning. That’s a recipe for a loss. That’s what that is. But when you have guys that are just forging ahead, moving on to what the next task is and actually get excited about maybe helping their teammate out in whatever way that is. Digging down deep and making a pitch, keeping a ball in front even though this pitcher is giving up a bunch of lasers. That’s a recipe for success.”
On Griffin Merritt breaking out of his slump with late pinch-hit
“He’s an older guys and he’s a hard worker here in the cage, so you’d be happy in general. But the way in which it came where he shot a ball hard through the middle. I don’t care where he gets his hits but he last time we were in here and you guys were asking me about him, he was pulling off his pitches. To shoot a ball through the middle like that, it means his direction is pretty good. He’s fully capable, just like Book [Kyle Booker] was coming off the bench and having the swing that he did, when they are true to their roots. You get outside of that and try to do more, or you try and take on three or more additional problems, it’s a recipe for a loss.”
On Hurston Waldrep’s pitching performance for Florida
“I don’t know guys failed to do that [make adjustments]. There was one inning where he breezed through our guys and guys were bantering back and forth trying to get set. It just seemed to fire him up. That was his one inning where he just blew through our three guys. Most of them were competitive at-bats with a chance to do something against him, but I think by now everyone who knows him in this league, the splitty [splitter] is the key. It’s one of those where if you’re in the stands it’s like, why did you swing at tat pitch? But if you are in the batter’s box, it’s a little bit different. As hard as the guy can throw – and certainly the breaking balls he throws are SEC quality or whatever you want to term them – the deal breakers the splitfinger. Not only is it a tough pitch to lay off but it’s a big chase pitch. It make the other ones better because it’s in the back of your mind as a hitter.”
On what it would take to mix up the weekend rotations
“It would take tonight is what it would take. Those guys are capable. Who do you want to move around? How do you want to do it? That is a question for down the road. I like the composure we have tomorrow. The strikes we have. The athletes we have. The teammate and the character that we have as a person. I like him in the first inning tomorrow. I also like the fact — we pulled (Andrew) Lindsey out of the game for a reason. Bryce (Jenkins), as well as he threw the ball, he is burnt. Otherwise, I think everyone that is not a starting pitcher is available behind him tomorrow as well. I like that equation. Then we will figure out which other ones we need to figure out — to say figure out a whole bunch — after tomorrow.”
On the high strikeout numbers again
“You are in the men’s league. The strikeout numbers are going to be high. I am just teasing with you. I don’t give a rip about that number in particular. The number that is too high is the non-competitive at-bats. The non-competitive last pitch of the at-bat is the way to say it. Trust me, you aren’t standing in there wearing a Tennessee uniform or a Florida uniform and you are not trying. But try hard and you die hard. I can’t quote the guy that says in a rap because it will turn political on you. I tried hard like no other. Hopefully, my stats aren’t on the internet. So get in the box and compete. Locking up with two strikes isn’t an option. We have done that. That is what you are pointing out. If you are (watching) on TV and you are wearing orange and you are angry at me or the players, it is those ones. I get you. The splitty is really good. Something like that, I ain’t going to say tip your cap but that might be part of the baseball game. What can’t be part of the baseball game or is not an option is locking up and having everyone in the dugout just as frustrated as the fans or you or the coaching staff.”