UM football coach Al Golden didn’t get a chance to see David Thompson rifle passes to receivers last fall, but baseball coach Jim Morris will get to see him use his bat this spring.
The talented freshman, who set a state record for career home runs, doesn’t have a set position just yet — he’s working at third base, first base and left field. But chances are he’s going to find a spot in the starting lineup.
“He can hit,” said Morris, whose team practiced for the first time Friday, exactly three weeks before the season-opening weekend series at home against Rutgers.
“He’s a good athlete, knows how to win and works very, very hard. And he can hit. When you can hit, you find a place to play.”
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Thompson, who had right shoulder surgery in June to repair a torn labrum, is one of a handful of newcomers — along with a few players coming back from surgery — Morris is counting on to help turn the program around.
The others include: left-handed starting pitchers Bryan Radziewski (the only player who wasn’t ready to go at the start of practice Friday coming off shoulder surgery) and Andrew Suarez (a ninth-round pick in 2011 who only pitched three innings in an exhibition game against the Marlins before having shoulder surgery himself); middle infielders Brandon Lopez (who could get a chance to compete for the closer’s role) and Alex Hernandez (a transfer from Palm Beach Central who was the team’s unofficial MVP in the fall); and left-handed, power-hitting freshman outfielder Grant Heyman (an 11th-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays whom Morris said was hitting balls into the upper deck of the parking lot in the fall).
The Hurricanes, coming off a disappointing 36-22 season in which they lost their first regional at home since 1990, were tabbed to finish fourth in the Coastal Division in a preseason poll by Atlantic Coast Conference coaches Friday. That hardly bothered Morris as much as the fact that UM is entering the season unranked in Baseball America’s Top 25 poll for the first time since he took over in 1994.