Tony Vitello talks about pre-season training and all-court competition

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Tennessee is just over two weeks away from opening its 2022 baseball season against Georgia Southern at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Vols head coach Tony Vitello met with local media on Wednesday to discuss preseason practices and the poor injury chance Tennessee is already facing.

Tennessee ace Blade Tidwell is sidelined indefinitely with a stiff shoulder while Missouri transfer pitcher Seth Halvorsen is out until at least the SEC game. Vitello expressed his confidence on Tidwell’s front, saying he thinks the talented right-hander will start this season.

Luckily for Tennessee, they already added an extra arm between fall training and preseason training when they transferred Vanderbilt Ethan Smith.

In three years at Vanderbilt, Smith posted an 8-0 record and a 2.77 ERA in 64.2 innings pitched. There’s still one hurdle to clear before Smith can pitch for the Big Orange. Since he was traded midway through the school year, the NCAA has to clear Smith to play — something the Vols are still waiting for.

“He’s thrown well in the scrums,” Vitello said of Smith. “The one thing he definitely has is the quality of the speed pitches. You can see this in two ways. You could really use that as a guy out of the bullpen – you’re probably coming to get us out of a traffic jam, and when you can go quality off speed, that really really helps. He also has some experience shutting down games and getting out of the bullpen in crucial situations, and he knows what the league is like. I think it helps to have that vision. … That said, as he continues to enter our system a little more and bypass our people where we can put him in conditioned form and things like that to potentially start. I wouldn’t rule that option out either.

On the pitch, Vitello spoke on a host of topics. At receiver, Tennessee has its two best receivers in Evan Russell and Charlie Taylor and will play them both.

Bodies abound in the middle of the Tennessee infield. The Vols have lost Max Ferguson and Liam Spence to pro baseball and there are a handful of players who could take their place.

Returning players Cortland Lawson and Logan Steenstra along with freshmen Seth Stephenson and Christian Moore are in the best places to earn those spots.

Vitello also discussed the growth of Jordan Beck and Kyle Booker, Tennessee’s appalling road schedule and more.

Martin E. Berry