Everything Vitello, Dollander Said About Tennessee’s Weekend Rotation Change

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Tennessee baseball changed his weekend rotation ahead of its weekend series with SEC east rival Georgia. Tony Vitello gave the ball to sophomore Chase Dollander in the Vols’, 5-2, series opening win Thursday night.

Here’s everything Vitello and Dollander said about the weekend rotation changes following the series opening win.

Vitello on the pitching plan entering the weekend

“A lot of things went into that. Anytime you come upon these Thursday games like we did last week it’s going to cause potential to shake things up anyway. Garrett Crochet was in the stadium tonight, which it was great to see him and last time we played Georgia we got pushed into a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and he started on Thursday. It was his first start in a while, so Vanderbilt did it last week, I believe with Christian Little starting against Georgia with a different set up. For us, a lot of different reasons but we got our two freshest guys starting. By no means — you saw how we approached the game — we started the guy we felt best to start. We brought in our best weapon out of the bullpen stuff wise and then we went to our closer early if you want to call it that. It’s not as if we’re conceding anything at all, but I think the best thing for us to do this particular weekend is to throw our two most fresh guys. It’s the one weekend you guys kept bringing up like ‘oh, you got this big problem that’s coming around the bend.’ Well this is the first weekend we’ve had four healthy guys that are the guys you all have talked about, and next week it will take care of itself because we will go to Hoover after so there’s four starts. They’ll each get one. Which day it is I don’t know, but we liked our plan going into this weekend and it’s easy to say that now because we won one game, but now it’s time to turn to tomorrow which I know they’re geared up with their big dog tomorrow. I believe Blade (Tidwell) and him (Jonathan Cannon) pitched against each other last year and we’ll do it again.”

Vitello if part of the reason for the change was to manage innings for Chase Burns and Drew Beam

“Yeah. I think if you’ve looked at the way we’ve approached guys, the beginning — it’s not like we baby guys at all, but I think Frank (Anderson) and I see eye-to-eye and the one thing we don’t ever want to do is run guys into the ground at any point. When you have younger guys like Blade Tidwell last year basically senior year (of high school) gets erased due to COVID and now all of a sudden he’s thrown into a weekend starter role and it’s ‘hey, throw a 100 innings for us’ even though he barely threw at all last year. I think you have to take some of that stuff into consideration. The laundry list of things we get into, I think for us to be ready in any situation it helps if those guys at least know what it looks like at least once to come out of the bullpen. For all practical purposes to me, our guys need to think we’re in playoff mode right now. I know the team we faced last weekend, Kentucky, was in that mode and (Sean) Harney was their Saturday game three starter and what did he do when they were up in game two? That dude’s a warrior, man. I’m sure they wanted him to go down there, but I know he wanted to go down there and gets ready to finish the game.”

Vitello on how Burns handled coming out of the bullpen

“I thought he was great. You could maybe pick up on sometimes when guys come out of the ‘pen versus starting, there’s a little less off the throttle type of approach in a heightened sense of intensity. Billy Beane has a great paragraph or two on that in Moneyball. Whether it’s the ninth inning or whatever, you need three outs each inning. It’s up to these guys to know what their personality is. From what I saw it was outstanding. Really, he has a guy 0-2 and he makes one poor pitch. If you take that away, he might be the guy that finishes the game. Who knows, though we’re good going to Redmond.”

Vitello on pulling Dollander after the sixth inning

“When I can tell, I kind of usually hide. I went out there, Burns can get himself out of that situation. Look what he did against Auburn. I kind of ducked my head when I went out there and made a comment to him. With Doe, I just hid. If you did look at the sixth inning, he kind of had to gut through that deal a little bit. Pitch count-wise, he wasn’t that deep in. Same situation, the guy is coming off a two-week layoff. He is fresh so you would think he would be able to go. The trips up and down are a little bit different. Me and Frank talked and we didn’t see the need to run him into the ground and get 100 pitches out of him. Now, I think he can do that. Blade is at a position where he can get 100. Beamer and Burnsy can do that as well. We are creeping on a situation, too, where all four guys can say, ‘hey if you need me out of the pen to get some sorts like Kentucky did against us or other situations that you can bring up, then I will go do it.’”

Vitello on if he thinks Dollander’s injury was beneficial in the long term

“A lot of this, too, is these guys are kids and they are young and they are fresh of mind and fresh of body. They want to just go play. You get up in the office and late in the year you have to be careful about not over-analyzing things. I think at the end of year, you want to look back and say — like (Sean) Hunley there at a couple points late in the year, we didn’t use him when maybe we should have and I am not so sure I don’t regret one of them. You also don’t want to look at it like I don’t know about that guy’s career in pro ball because we rode him like a rented mule.”

Dollander on what it was like pitching the series opener

“It was kind of surprising to me, to be honest with you. I didn’t know they were going to do that. Obviously, coach V told me he was going to work me in some way, but I didn’t think it would be on opening day. Between the pitching staff and stuff like that we’re all just trying to do our part, and just trying to get wins for this team and make it as far as we can. That’s really all they ask of us to do and that’s all we can do.”

Dollander on when he knew he was starting

“I knew probably on Sunday that I was going to start tonight.”

Dollander on his message to Burns and Beam on potentially not starting

“Just keep working like we’ve been doing. It’s not really up to them what the coaches think, but I think they’re both quality starters that we have among the four that we have. We can shuffle around. We can do whatever we want really to be able to win games. All they can really do is put their head down and keep grinding.”

Dollander on how special it is to have the option to limit the freshman’s innings

“It’s very special. I know a lot of teams normally don’t have one or tow, but we have four. That’s unheard of. It’s awesome to watch these guys go out there and do what they do. To see each weekend what they’re going to do and see what the coaches think every weekend.”

 

Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.