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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Earned Series Opening Victory Over UAlbany

Tony Vitello Tennessee Notre Dame
Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. Photo by Ric Butler/Rocky Top Insider.

Tennessee baseball defeated UAlbany 8-5 in its series opener at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Friday night.

After the game, Vols head coach Tony Vitello discussed AJ Russell’s short out, finding the right lineup and much more.

Here’s everything Vitello said postgame.

More From RTI: AJ Russell Exits UAlbany Game With Side Soreness

On AJ Russell only lasting three innings

“Just some soreness and we’ve kind of been harping to our players to communicate with us with what’s going on. It could be anything. You turn an ankle and it’s sore. You got a blister. He had some soreness in a certain part of his body. I don’t know if it was necessarily (his) arm. I kind of leave that up to those guys. Maybe it’s my mechanism. I don’t have any control of it, so I don’t want to stress until we’ve got the full word, but we got enough word to take him out of the game and give the ball off to (Chris Stamos) there.”

On if he had any previous concerns with Russell

“No. He’s a guy who’s fortunately put on some weight and added to his physique a lot, has kind of made adjustments — I’m going over the course of his whole career — made some adjustments throwing-program wise, so he’s certainly put in all of his work. I think he’s dealt with a blister or something with finger before, but nothing that kind of attaches itself to this. We’ll await word.”

On how Russell was able to work with runners on base

“He was good. I think he kind of went almost like a hill or some sort of economic diagram there where he started out slow. Started out with not as good of command as he had. A lot of times when you go scouting, whether you go watch your high school guys you’re interested in or our guys, major league — that second time out, you know, if you came out of the gates guns blazing, it’s hard to duplicate that two weekends in a row for whatever reason. Stuff was good, but command wasn’t as good and he kind of got rolling there for a minute. And then he reached a point where you know, to kind of quote him to the training staff, he was kind of reaching back and giving it all he had, and he didn’t really feel like the ball was coming out.

“So didn’t start off as crisp, but really got in a nice rhythm there and kept it together with baserunners on, kept his composure and made some nice pitches. Off-speed might have been as good, if not better as last weekend. Just the fastball command wasn’t. Eventually the whole thing got cut short.”

On what he thought about Christ Stamos outing, the home run he gave up seeming like a good pitch

“Yeah. That guy (UAlbany’s Mike Prisco) has more muscles than eight of me put together and he really just kind of touched it and it went— a decent bit over the fence too. It wasn’t like it was a wall scraper but it wasn’t like it was a terrible pitch. He just kind of flicked it over the fence. I think where you avoid trouble probably is forcing contact the guy in front of him, and who knows, maybe the guy in front of him gets a base hit and gets on base anyway but we could have bettered ourselves or maybe you get ‘better luck’ if you force contact on the guy in front of him. But all in all, to kind of come out in that quirky situation and warm up real fast, he did exactly what we needed him to do. You combine the two guys and you had a quality start or however you want to term it in college and then we turned it off to the guy (AJ Causey) that was someone for us last Friday.”

On his message to the team postgame, it seeming spirited

“You got the music going so I was just trying to make sure everyone heard me but we covered like 14 different little things. It wasn’t any one big topic. One topic was just the game time for tomorrow. I know we’re going to bump it up to 12 o’clock. Just seems to be a little bit better weather. Maybe that way our guys can eat and shower and not rush to the basketball game if they’re going to go check that one out. But in all seriousness, our focus will be on the game tomorrow and we want to make sure— we obviously have good competition here. Maybe not a name that everyone is familiar with but we want to accumulate some innings and get guys reps and improve our team. So what the main thing we were talking about other than that is improvement. You don’t just get better from February to May by playing. You make mistakes. You figure out how you can do them better. When things are going well you make sure you repeat those routines to an extent so that’s kind of a dumbed down version or a quick version of what we were talking about.”

On Cal Stark

“His approach at the plate was really good. His presence is always good. He plays with good energy, and he knows how to create rapport with Coach [Frank] Anderson, who has as high of standards as any human could ever have. And that’s really important with the pitching coach. It’s obviously important with the pitchers, he does a great job at that, with the catcher, heck, there’s even stuff that goes on with the other team maybe. He’s just really good out there at the little things to give us an edge, and it was a difference maker for us last year in our season as we made a run. But I think this is going to be a better offensive year for him just because he’s been through it, he knows what it looks like, and I think he has a more mature approach at the plate, and I think that showed today.”

On the lineup rotations

“I think the biggest formula is to try and spread the wealth a little bit and make sure guys are involved. I think for us to know what exactly is the best lineup, or even for you guys, because there’s a lot of you guys that put in a lot of time following our team and watching practice. I think for anyone to be like, ‘Man, that might be it right there. Use those nine guys, and maybe righty, lefty match up this one spot, or maybe this guy is a pinch runner,’ I think we would need everybody healthy, and we would also need a fair amount of repetitions. There’s some guys there whose statline doesn’t look as good as it will by the end of the year just because there is not a big enough sample size. So, right now, there is a rhyme or reason more times or not, but sometimes it’s like, ‘Let’s just try this.’ Or, ‘Let’s try and get this guy bumped up in the repetition category,’ so hopefully we can utilize the rest of these non-conference games to do that.”

On the reason behind Christian Moore’s surge

“He’s progressed physically and mentally since he’s been here. It’s easy to see in the uniform, but he’s also done that mentally. And as far as his swing goes, I think he’s using his legs a little bit better. Other than that, it’s a lot of repetitions, and you got a guy that has now played in Omaha. He was a big part of what we had going on the year before only as a freshman, went out and played with Team USA against phenomenal competition and the best players in the country, so I think a lot of that is in his back pocket right now and working for him as well.”

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