Catching Up With Coach Fred Corral
Jan. 23, 2014
ATHENS------Georgia resumes preseason practice Friday, Jan. 24. Here’s the latest in a series of interviews with the new coaching staff. Next up, pitching coach Fred Corral.
A native of California, Corral earned All-Pac 10 honors as a pitcher at Cal-Berkeley and helped the Bears to the 1988 College World Series. He is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the country with experience in both the collegiate and professional ranks. In June of 2013, Corral joined Scott Stricklin’s new staff at Georgia.
Welcome back to the SEC, did you miss it?
“The SEC is arguably the toughest conference in the country, and there’s an itch about it that once you’re out, you want to get back in it. It’s a grind, and that’s attractive to my nature. I want to be on my toes at all times. I like the challenge. I’ve experienced the Big 12, Conference USA, the Pac-10 and the SEC. They all present some pressure-packed feelings. I feel fortunate that Scott (Stricklin) gave me the opportunity to return to the SEC.”
What do you think of the experienced pitching staff you inherited?
“It’s a very good situation, the quantity of pitchers, and the great thing was finding time to get to know them in the fall. I had a chance to understand each pitcher and each pitcher had a chance to understand our plan. We’re still moving forward with that. Talent-wise, I was very impressed. They have a sense of urgency to be great, to move to the next level, and they understand the grind of what that takes.”
Will the next three weeks of practice for the pitchers leading up to the season opener be any different then what you did with them in the fall?
“No because we made a plan from day one. The key is to understand and execute the plan. We’re going to be a strike-throwing staff. We’ll pitch to the front and back part of the plate, and we’ll have a put-away breaking ball. They have to understand what I’m thinking, have a common ground and learn together. It has evolved and will continue to do so. They are part of a brotherhood now with 170 other pitchers who have been through this before.”
How do you prefer to set up your rotation for SEC series?
“Coach Stricklin and I will talk about that more, and the strategies I’ve used in the past. You have to play one game at a time, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday are all important and winning a series is important. Where do you put your best guy, or better guy? Who do you bring in after that? Saturday is the swing day. Everybody has top of the line guys. Some go with them on Friday, some go on Saturday. Saturday is the swing day when you either win the series or even the series. We want to win on Sunday too. We’ll figure out what our best strategy is to do that.”
How do you feel about pitching roles, and how many pitchers to carry each weekend?
“Ideally, you need 12, and the key is to get your number 12 as close to your number one guy. An exceptional staff is one that is the most consistent, and they have the greater chance of winning games. I told everybody I want them to think they are the number one guy. If the number one guy is out there, and you have to take him out, who is his number one guy? That’s the mentality I want them to have. There will be surprises throughout the year; guys who step up and show they can handle adversity and maintain a consistent routine. It will weed out the soft-minded, and we’ll see who is ready.”
Will preseason practice feature more competition for those spots on the active roster?
“Yes, although from the fall we have a good idea of who are starters are, a good idea on the guys in the middle for long and short relief, and the guys we’re considering to close. Between the starters and relievers, we have our nine best guys, and over the next three weeks, we’ll fill in the other spots so that when Georgia Southern arrives, we’ll know our rotation, middle relief and who will close. The rotation will evolve as the season goes along. Competition makes everyone better.”
With all the statistics in baseball, what is one category you want to see improvement this year?
“We need to reduce freebies. Freebies are walks, balks, hit by pitches, guys reaching on errors, stolen bases allowed. If we can minimize those, we will make improvement as a pitching staff and have a better chance to win more games. We were last in the league last year in freebies.”
As a player at Cal, you got to experience the College World Series. What do you recall from that?
“Well, we went ‘2 and q’ (0-2), but I remember vividly the rush to the field when we beat Texas in a regional to advance to Omaha, and it must be very similar to winning the lottery. It was the lottery for me. We went straight from Austin to Omaha. I thought we were the hottest team in baseball. It was just a fog when we got there. It’s still one of the most amazing experiences, and I want to experience that again.”
What kind of pitchers are you looking for to bring to the University of Georgia?
“When I look for pitchers, I look for winners, for their ability. Are we going to take a guy that throws 86 and knows how to win or a guy who just throws 93? At UGA, and in the SEC, you can attract pitchers that can throw 93 and win. We have to find pieces to the puzzle that fit together for a unique staff. When we change pitchers between innings, we want to change the pitcher, the look. Is that velocity? It’s part of our plan on how to pitch. There’s a process in knowing how to win and that includes knowing how to pitch. Changing speeds is an important part of our approach. Hitters can identify pitches. It’s harder for them to identify speed.”
How have you and your family adjusted to the move to Athens and UGA?
“It’s been wonderful, and it’s a beautiful community. Athens is like a combination of a few places we’ve been. It’s got a small-town feel like Norman (Okla.), and the trees and seasonal changes are like Knoxville. We’re thankful for the opportunity. Our kids have made wonderful friends. Our 2-year-old, Jordan Patrick, has learned the phrase ‘Heck no.’ He was asked if he liked Alabama, and he said “Heck no.” It’s OK to not like our rivals, but we’ll work on his vocabulary. Our family is honored being Bulldogs.”
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