Tigers preparing for Liberty in season opener


by - Staff Writer -
Lee's Tigers take on Liberty Friday in the season opener
Lee's Tigers take on Liberty Friday in the season opener

CLEMSON – The last week in Clemson has seen torrential rains followed by a fresh blanket of snow that lasted a day followed by more rain. It may not seem like baseball season, but the opener is this Friday.

Clemson opens the 2020 season Friday against Liberty with a 4 p.m. first pitch. The second game of the three-game series is Saturday at 1 p.m. and the finale is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. The Flames were a 43-win team a year ago and earned a berth in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional as a No. 3 seed.

“Really excited about opening day coming up on Friday,” Lee said Tuesday. “We've got a few days and hopefully, the weather will cooperate with us over the next few days so we can get some quality practices in. It's been very tough with the snow and the rain we've had here being able to get on the field and get quality work in, but we can't control the weather so we don't worry about it. The weekend looks like it's going to be okay.

“We've got a heck of a club coming in here in Liberty. Liberty returns three guys that threw a ton of innings on the weekend for them. Two left-handed starters and a right-handed starter that will sandwich in between those two lefties and he is very, very good. Won 43 games last year. They return three guys that were there best hitters. They're going to be a tough opponent for us. We know that but we're excited about the challenge and we're looking forward to the opportunity to play somebody else.”

Head coach Monte Lee announced that Sam Weatherly will get the start on Friday, Davis Sharpe will start on Saturday, and Spencer Strider will start on Sunday. Strider, who missed last season with an arm injury, is on a pitch count early in the season and will be backed up lefty Mat Clark.

“We're going to start Sam Weatherly in game one, Davis Sharpe in game two and Spender Strider in game three. It was a lot of talking yesterday,” Lee said. “We met yesterday and I didn't get home until probably eight o'clock last night. We spent a lot of time talking about it. Here's the thought process behind it. Spencer has to start. He's going to be on a limited pitch count for four to six weeks. He has to start and we cannot pitch him out of the bullpen because of the nature of his rehab.

“If we start him in the middle of the week, which we discussed that, and we're able to build his pitch count, it's going to be a very slow process of building his pitch count and we have no chance to get him on the weekend if we pitch him in the middle of the week because he can't recover fast enough pitching on a Tuesday to pitch and start on the weekend. The thought process for us is to start him on Sunday and basically we will have two guys in that game that we will look at as the starter. I would anticipate seeing Mat Clark pitch behind him. It could also be Spencer and (Keyshawn) Askew pairing up to make the starter. We have to look at it as an opener.”

Sam Hall will get the start at short.

“Sam is going to be our shortstop and he certainly earned it,” Lee said. “It was a heck of a battle between him and James. We felt like for us to put our best nine guys on the field, that Sam will be playing short and I anticipate James (Parker) being our third baseman.”

Right-handed pitcher Carter Raffield is also coming off of Tommy John surgery and Lee said the plan for using him is still to be determined.

"Carter is a little farther along than Spencer," Lee said. "He's probably three months ahead of Spencer, so he's a little bit more versatile. What we'll probably wind up doing with Carter, if we have an opportunity to use him this weekend out of the pen, we will. We will try to pick the time and the day that the score and the game dictates that we can use Raffield. We have Carter ready to go. We'll have to plan that out because he's not a guy that you can have to go down there and throw eight or ten pitches and get him ready to go. You have to kind of map it out and plan at least an inning before to get him ready. I could see us potentially starting Carter. We have five games in the first week. I can see that being the scenario but a lot of that depends on how we use him this weekend."

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