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February 3, 2012
Rosenberg's return bolsters catching spot
Since his top two catchers from last season's national championship team were both seniors, South Carolina coach Ray Tanner was rightfully concerned about the catching position when preparations for the 2012 season began last fall.
But the return of a healthy Dante Rosenberg, together with the emergence of freshman Grayson Greiner, have calmed those fears.
Rosenberg, a junior-college teammate of former shortstop Peter Mooney, was expected to platoon at catcher in 2011, but a serious back injury shelved him for the season after appearing in two games on the opening weekend.
Now the 5-foot-11, 185-pound redshirt junior from Coral Springs, Fla., is back and ready to get his college baseball career back on track.
"It's been a long journey, but thankfully with the trainers and all the help I've received, I'm back at 100 percent," Rosenberg told GamecockCentral.com recently. "I'm ready to go this year."
Rosenberg's issues with his back begin in the summer of 2010 when "an incident" (his words) while playing summer baseball in Maryland resulted in a stress fracture in the L3 region.
His back got progressively worse during fall practice with USC later that year until "it all fell apart" a year ago when preseason camp started. The stress fracture impacted some of the muscles in his back.
"I sat out about four weeks and caught the last two weekends (of fall scrimmages in 2010), when it was pain-free," Rosenberg said. "It just acted up. I rested it over Christmas and when I got back, I tried to go full-go too soon."
Rosenberg worked with a chiropractor and did extensive rehab work and therapy with the USC medical staff at Carolina Stadium. The process took several months, but he is now healthy.
"It's all working out, it feels really good," Rosenberg said. "It's been a long wait. But I'm ready to get going this spring along with the team."
Rosenberg was 2-for-3 at the plate with a single and double in last week's third scrimmage. Tanner, though, wants to see him throw the ball better to second base when runners try to steal.
"Dante gets a little bit inaccurate when he tries to hump it up a little bit back there, but he has done a nice job," Tanner said recently. "And so has Grayson. So, I feel we're going to be fine behind the plate. After losing two guys last year with so much experience, having two newcomers settle in this quick is a good sign."
Rosenberg considers himself a defensive-first catcher, and Gamecock pitchers appreciate his ability to handle tough situations from behind the plate.
"I'm going to hit for average and get the little things right on the field," Rosenberg said. "I'm a vocal leader and I'll bring a lot of energy to the team."
Because of his back injury, Rosenberg was unable to contribute beyond the first weekend to USC's second straight national championship.
"I was a part of it, but it was difficult to sit back and watch," Rosenberg said. "That's a lot of motivation for me this year."
Is Rosenberg feeling any pressure to help the Gamecocks register a three-peat in Omaha? No.
"We have a mature team. We know what we're doing," Rosenberg said.
Tanner prefers older, more experienced players in the critically important positions, like catcher. Besides Rosenberg, the other option is Greiner, rated the No. 5 high-school prospect in South Carolina last year by Baseball America and the No. 1 catcher.
"It's looking really good. Greiner is very good back there, so we have a good duo going on," Rosenberg said. "We're just competing for a spot and the rest is up to the coaches. Grayson is a big, strong kid and he is very mature for his age. He is a very good defensive catcher. And he can hit a little bit. He has a promising future."
As talented as he appears to be in the early scrimmages, Greiner is still a true freshman who has yet to play a game. As a result, Tanner wanted another option in case Greiner struggled early.
A healthy Rosenberg would give him that option.
But the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Greiner showed off his impressive skills last weekend during the first three scrimmages of preseason camp and proved he should be capable of handling the workload defensively.
"Grayson Greiner continued to have some pretty good at-bats up there," Tanner said Sunday following the final scrimmage. "Grayson is a really good player. He had an outstanding fall. He can catch and throw. He is going to be good offensively. He can run a little bit. He is going to get an opportunity, that's for sure."
Earlier, Tanner contended that Greiner, one of his prized recruits from the 2011-12 recruiting class, has quickly made a positive impression upon USC's pitchers and boldly stated that Greiner could potentially become a freshman All-American.
"The biggest challenge for Grayson has been that our pitching staff is comfortable with him," Tanner said. "But I think he has already overcome that. Many times, when you bring in a new catcher, the pitchers are the first ones to critique your catcher. Regardless of what he does, if they're not comfortable with him, that becomes an issue. But he was outstanding in the fall. His ability to receive has been the key for him."
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