After suffering their first loss of the season Tuesday night against Florida State, the Gators and coach Kevin O’Sullivan are pondering changes to the lineup.
“There are some guys that need to play a little bit better to be honest with you,” O’Sullivan said Thursday afternoon. “We might do a couple different things this weekend in the infield, couple different guys in the outfield.”
While O’Sullivan wouldn’t get into specifics, there are a few areas the Gators may look to improve by adding another bat to the lineup.
The three outfield spots can all be shifted around based on any changes Florida makes to the infield.
Lately, the Gators have been plugging different guys in at third base with freshman Zack Powers, sophomore Austin Maddox and junior Jeff Moyer each earning a start there in the past three games.
Powers has made some nice defensive plays this year, but hasn’t exactly hit the cover off the ball. He’s got just one hit in the past seven games and is batting .143 this season.
Moyer is also struggling at the plate with the same batting average, though he has only half as many at bats as Powers. He doesn’t add as much defensively as Powers, either.
Meanwhile, Ben McMahon is hitting .286 while acting as the designated hitter and occasional first baseman.
If O’Sullivan wants more bats in the lineup, McMahon could play first base and slide Maddox over to third base, where he got most of his starts last season.
While the Gators would give up a little defensively with Powers out of the lineup, McMahon has been better at the plate.
And while senior second baseman Josh Adams isn’t likely to lose his starting spot, a few base-running blunders and defensive mistakes have hurt the Gators.
Another option to get more hitting power in the lineup is moving Preston Tucker, who has played every game in right field this year, back to the first base spot.
Tucker started 50 games at first base last season, earning recognition on the All-SEC Defensive Team for his play there. Moving him back to the infield would give the Gators a reliable first baseman and allow another outfielder to slide into his spot in right field.
Bryson Smith has played some at left and center field this season. With the way Daniel Pigott is hitting the ball right now, the Gators may not want to risk moving him back to right field, where he spent most of last season.
Smith, who is hitting .231 this season, could play center field while Kamm Washington slides over to Preston Tucker’s spot, where he has filled in once or twice this year.
Florida should also get a boost when junior outfielder Tyler Thompson returns from his hamstring injury. O’Sullivan said Thursday he’s “hopeful” Thompson will return soon, but didn’t know if he would be available against Miami this weekend.
His return could shake up the current lineup.
Each of Florida’s players in the outfield has had a few early issues and replacing Matt Den Dekker in center field hasn’t been easy.
While Thompson is probably best suited as a left fielder, he may end up in center field with the way Pigott and Tucker are playing.
In any case, the Gators should get a better feel for what they want to do this weekend against the Hurricanes.
Right now, O’Sullivan said he wants to play things out and see how they go before making any long-term decisions about the lineup.
But he’s certainly not opposed to tweaking things if players don’t step up this weekend.
“Some guys just need to play better, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “We’re not going to be afraid to make some changes. We’re going to give everybody an opportunity and see what they can do. We’ll wait to see how this whole thing plays out, but we’re not going to be afraid to make changes, that’s for sure.”
Tim Casey contributed to this report.