Cal Quantrill may not be able to face hitters until May, though that doesn't stop him from feeling optimistic about Stanford baseball and the upcoming season, which begins Friday with a three-game series against Cal State Fullerton. First pitch is 6 p.m.
Quantrill, who pitched the season openers for the Cardinal in each of his first two years, continues to rehab from "Tommy John" surgery, or ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, that he underwent last April. It's a 14-month recovery process, though several players have returned earlier.
"I would love to participate in the Pac-12," Quantrill said. "I'm going to be back and I can't wait. I'm throwing bullpens now, but that's not the same as taking the mound in the middle of the field under the lights and with a big crowd."
Quantrill's last appearance was at Rice on Feb. 27, 2015, when he got the win after striking out seven Owls in seven innings.
Even though he starts the year on the injured reserve, Quantrill was named the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List and to a pair of preseason All-American teams. He's also projected to be a high first-round draft pick in June.
Junior shortstop Tommy Edman also earned a nod as a preseason All-American by Baseball America.
Meanwhile, left-hander John Hochstatter also had his season cut short with the same surgery as Quantrill's. He made two starts before calling it a year.
"He might be back before me," Quantrill said. "He's one of those guys who may not be the fastest, but he just gets guys out."
Stanford finished 24-32 last year, just the second losing season (also 1993) in coach Mark Marquess' previous 39 years, and the worst overall season since the 1946 squad finished 8-15 (.348).
"Last year was not OK," Quantrill said. "It lit a fire under people. One of the things I'm most excited about is that guys flew under the radar last year. We have talented players and we expect to compete for the national championship. We're not a bottom of the Pac-12 team."
Losing two-thirds of your starting rotation less than a month into the season has an effect despite the talent level of the rest of the staff. There's no minor leagues to fall back upon and when pitchers are thrust into roles they've had little time in which to prepare, it's a difficult transition. The Cardinal used 14 different starters, with Brett Hanewich, Chris Castellanos and Andrew Summerville carrying the majority of the load.
That trio finished with a combined 10-10 mark and returning pitchers sported an overall 20-18 mark. The Cardinal won four of the five games started by Quantrill and Hochstatter, which would project to a conservative 21-7 over the course of the regular season.
Injuries weren't limited to the pitching staff either, as shortstop Drew Jackson and infielder Mikey Diekroeger from Menlo School, the team's top two hitters, missed a combined 41 games.
Jackson graduated and Marquess sees Diekroeger at third base or second base. Edman, who led the team with 29 RBI last year, moves to shortstop, his natural position.
"I've always liked shortstop the best," Edman said. "It was cool to play second with Drew at short. I've played short so much, it's more natural to me."
Edman, who likely will hit in one of the top three spots in the order, has taken grounders at every infield position since he's been at Stanford and focused on building his arm strength during the fall.
"I've also been working on driving the ball to the gaps," he said. "I had some success this summer, so no matter where I hit I'm not going to change my approach."
Stanford was picked to finish seventh, out of 11, in the Pac-12 after finishing 10th last season. That doesn't matter much to guys like Quantrill or Edman, who know that a healthy Cardinal lineup can produce at a high level.
Of the 17 players with an official at-bat last year, 14 return. Of the 18 pitchers who threw a pitch, 13 are back. Sophomore Quinn Brodey is on both lists.
"We're going to have more depth this year just from the fact of how guys are stepping up," Edman said. "There are 13, 14 guys who could potentially start. That's created a competitive situation and made for an intense fall and winter."
Matt Winaker, who had 10 doubles and drove in 26 runs as a freshman, returns to play first base, where he will be backed up by senior Austin Barr, one of six players with at least two home runs last year, and freshman Nickolas Oar. Barr can also catch and will be used as a designated hitter.
Diekroeger and freshmen Nico Hoerner and Duke Kinamon are in the mix at both second and third. Bobby Zarubin, Beau Branton, Jesse Kuet, Peter McEvoy, Nick Bellafronto and Jacob Hoffman give Marquess plenty of infield choices.
Brodey, Jack Klein and Jonny Locher (a combined 40 RBI last year) are the frontrunners in the outfield, though Marquess said it was one of the more talented areas of the team, with junior Alex Dunlap and freshmen Brandon Wulff, Oar and Alec Wilson making it competitive.
Bryce Carter, a left-handed hitter, Matt Decker, Brian Higgins, Christian Molfetta and Dunlap gives Stanford a solid group of catchers.
"We may platoon there," Marquess said. "There are a lot of job openings. We have more depth at every position."
That includes the pitching staff, with Hanewick (4-6, 4.00, team-high 78 innings) and Castellanos (2-3, 3.44) the likely top two starters, with freshmen Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic in the mix to start Sunday.
Summerville, Brodey, Chris Viall, Tyler Thorne, Colton Hock, Griffin Weir and Keith Weisenberg all have starting experience. John Henry Styles, Joey Starling and Conor Cuse also return with some experience.
"All the freshmen played in the fall," Edman said. "They got a lot of at bats against college level pitchers. One through nine, I think we can put together a lineup with more depth and more pop than last year."
2016 STANFORD BASEBALL SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Time
Friday vs. CS Fullerton 6:30 pm
Saturday vs. CS Fullerton 2 pm
Sunday vs. CS Fullerton 1 pm
Monday at UC Davis 2 pm
Feb. 25 at Texas 4 pm
Feb. 26 at Texas 4:30 pm
Feb. 27 at Texas 1 pm
Feb. 28 at Texas 10:30 am
March 1 vs. St. Mary's 5:30 pm
March 4 vs. Vanderbilt 6 pm
March 5 vs. Vanderbilt 1 pm
March 6 vs. Vanderbilt 1 pm
March 18 vs. Kansas 7 pm
March 19 vs. Kansas 3 pm
March 20 vs. Kansas Noon
March 21 at UC Davis 2 pm
March 24 vs. Washington State* 6 pm
March 25 vs. Washington State* 6 pm
March 26 vs. Washington State* 1 pm
March 28 at San Jose State 6 pm
April 1 vs. USC* 7 pm
April 2 vs. USC* 1 pm
April 3 vs. USC* 4 pm
April 5 at California 7 pm
April 7 at UCLA* 7 pm
April 8 at UCLA* 7 pm
April 9 at UCLA* 4:30 pm
Apr. 12 vs. San Jose State 5:30 pm
April 15 at Arizona* 6 pm
April 16 at Arizona* 7 pm
April 17 at Arizona* 1 pm
April 19 at California 7 pm
April 22 vs. Arizona State* 6 pm
April 23 vs. Arizona State* 2 pm
April 24 vs. Arizona State* 1 pm
April 26 at Santa Clara 6 pm
April 29 at Oregon State* 5:35 pm
April 30 at Oregon State* 1:35 pm
May 1 at Oregon State* 1:05 pm
May 3 vs. USF 5:30 p.m.
May 5 vs. California* 7 pm
May 6 vs. California* 7 pm
May 7 vs. California* 7 pm
May 10 vs. Santa Clara 5:30 pm
May 13 at Utah* 11 am
May 14 at Utah* 5 pm
May 15 at Utah* Noon
May 17 vs. UC Davis 5:30 pm
May 20 at Washington* 5 pm
May 21 at Washington* 2 pm
May 22 at Washington* 1 pm
May 26 vs. Oregon* 7 pm
May 27 vs. Oregon* 7 pm
May 28 vs. Oregon* 1 pm
*Pac-12 Conference games