January 26, 2013

Winston planning to pitch and play outfield for FSU

In addition to battling for the starting quarterback job this spring, former five-star prospect Jameis Winston will also be jockeying for playing time on the baseball diamond.

Winston was rated the No. 22 player in the country for the class of 2012 by Perfectgame.org. He was drafted in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers last summer.

For Florida State Winston will push senior Seth Miller in centerfield for at-bats, and will be in the mix to replace Robert Benincasa as the closer.

"I think the upside is huge," FSU head coach Mike Martin of Winston. "He listens. He grasps. I'm anxious to see the progress he makes in the next few weeks."

As he took a redshirt as a member of the football team this fall, Winston made his way over to Dick Howser Stadium to take batting practice in the cage whenever he got a chance.

"I was practicing baseball all year," he said. "I was just hitting. Trying to get my timing back."

Despite having a shot at the starting quarterback job, Winston said he never even considered focusing on just football this fall.

He said if it weren't for FSU assistant baseball coach Mike Martin Jr. he would never have come to Tallahassee, and that baseball was big part of his decision to become a Seminole.

"I love both (sports) and I've got a strong passion for both of them," Winston said. "I can't really play one without the other one."

As for whether he prefers playing outfield or pitching, Winston said he enjoys both but he'd rather be in centerfield chasing down fly balls.

"I just like roaming out there in the outfield," said Winston, who also is a switch-hitter at the plate. "Tracking stuff down. But pitching, I like being a pitcher too because I can have the ball in my hand. Strike somebody out. I'm just in control."

As a pitcher the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Winston employs a fastball, changeup and a slider. He claims his slider is his best pitch, "My slider is my stuff."

Associate Head Coach and Pitching Coach Mike Bell agrees that Winston's slider is his best pitch, and really thinks the freshman can be a big part of the pitching stuff.

"It's an imposing figure on the mound," Bell said. "Very athletic. He's got a very good feel for a very good slider. His hand skills, obviously when you talk to Jimbo Fisher on the football side of things, his hand skills with a football it kind of correlates when you come over here.

"In a short period of time of doing stuff all fall with a football, to be able to pick up a baseball and do some of the things that you see come out of his hand, it's very intriguing. It's a lively fastball, very good sink, action arm-side run. A little bit of a feel for a change, with primarily a sinker-slider kind of guy, but coming from an imposing figure on the mound. His release point, because of his height and extension of his delivery, it allows him to cut down that 60-feet, six inches."

As spring football begins things will get more hectic for the dual-sport star. He likely will have to miss a few weekend series on the road and possibly some mid-week contests as well.

Winston said his biggest concern during that time will be not falling behind in school, but he thinks he's got a plan that will help him handle it. Martin, who has seen numerous players try to balance the two sports, most recently Taiwan Easterling and D'Vontrey Richardson, thinks that Winston has the right makeup to handle it just fine.

"No doubt," Martin said. "If anybody can do it, from what I've seen, Jameis can do it."

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