During the offseason, Southern baseball coach Roger Cador sat at his desk, inspected his roster and concluded it was lacking in the pitching department.
Constrained by a limited recruiting budget, the legendary coach utilized a resource he’d never used before in his 29 seasons on The Bluff, turning to the Internet — more specifically, YouTube.
Cador logged on to the website not knowing what he would find.
His search led him to a three-minute bullpen session of Rafael Diaz, a sophomore pitcher at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Cador liked what he saw.
On the YouTube page was a contact number. Cador dialed the number and a familiar voice picked up on the other end — a representative of Diaz, Jose Rodriguez, whom Cador had met a few years prior in Puerto Rico.
“(Rodriguez) has been helping me since I was 15 years old,” Diaz said. “It took time to get where I am right now. … coach Cador saw the video that (Diaz and Rodriguez) made, and he liked it.”
The Jaguars open their season this weekend against Grambling on Friday and Saturday, followed by a Sunday matchup against UNO in which Diaz is slated to start.
Yet Diaz and the rest of the penciled-in weekend rotation — Santos Saldivar and James Fontenot — will be held to a limited pitch count as Cador and pitching coach Rick Greene look at several pitchers.
“We’ve been evaluating with a short leash,” said Cador, who noted his team had only four intrasquad scrimmages during the preseason, thanks to the cold weather. “We’re certainly going to pitch a lot of people (this weekend). We’ll have guys on a pitch count, between 40 and 50 pitches. We’re not trying to give guys any certain role until we’ve seen them under fire.”
Saldivar will start the season opener, a year after serving in the closer role.
Is he ready?
“I was born ready,” Saldivar said. “I now have to save energy for the later innings. I started in high school, but I’ve been waiting for my opportunity (in college).”
Saldivar is one of just three returning pitchers to see action in a Jaguars uniform last season. The hitters have taken notice and said it’s up to them to carry the team — at least until the pitching staff gets acclimated..
“The first half of the season, we’re going to have to swing the bats,” outfielder Tyler Kirksey said.
Yet with the bitter weather conditions over the past few weeks, hitting has been a challenge.
“It’s hard,” Kirksey said of hitting in cold weather. “You really have to concentrate on getting on top of the ball.”
With opening weekend on the docket, Cador has long been known for his lineup tinkerings early in the season in attempting to find the right combination of players.
This weekend should prove no exception.
“I’d like to do some experimenting this weekend,” Cador said. “I’m big on getting input from the new coaches (Greene and hitting coach Michael Partida). To have three sets of eyes making decisions is going to helpful.”