Without 23 runs to distract observers, fielding flaws became more noticeable in Orem’s 4-1 loss Wednesday, leaving Owlz manager Tom Kotchman to give some frank appraisals following the performance:
“We’re not really good defensively out there in the outfield,” Kotchman said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do out there.”
Not that Kotchman was surprised, admitting they had been “spoiled” by Travis Witherspoon’s play at center field over the past two years. Even after Brennan Gowens’ scintillating opening-day performance, Kotchman halted any comparisons to Witherspoon in mid-sentence.
“We’re not really good defensively out there in the outfield. We’ve got a lot of work to do out there.” — Owlz manager Tom Kotchman
“There’s no replacing a guy like Witherspoon,” Kotchman deadpanned.
Through the first two games, it appeared Gowens was trying to prove his manager wrong. Wednesday, however, exposed the disparity between newcomer and predecessor. A deep fly ball over Brewer’s shoulder went uncaught, something only Witherspoon fans would complain about.
The infield needs work as well. Like Gowens, shortstop Brandon Brewer came to earth after two exceptional games, failing to complete the defensive plays that seemed routine the previous two days.
Kaleb Cowart and Jarrod Parks flip-flopped as the DH and third baseman, respectively, with neither one gaining a clear advantage over the other.
“We don’t have a lot of team speed,” Kotchman said. “In the infield we’re pretty generic.”
The catcher position has been an early bright spot, an ironic twist after last year’s team had stability at every defensive position except behind the plate. UC Irvine product Francis Larson got the nod Wednesday after having Tuesday off.
Larson didn’t provide the offensive punch he did in Monday’s opener (his three-run home run gave Orem a cushion they ended up needing), but earned some kudos from Kotchman after a throw-out to first – a rarity last season.
For what it’s worth, these nuggets come after all of three games, and Kotchman stressed it’s far too early to know exactly what he has or doesn’t have.
“I’ll need more than three games to learn what we are,” he said.