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Friday February 15, 2013 Ballpark notes: O'Sullivan likes young team, Whitson to miss season, Reid ready

Updated: 5:17pm, February 15

Cody Dent

Cody Dent is one of just two seniors on this year's Gators baseball team, joining Vickash Ramjit.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators baseball team opens the 2013 season at 7 tonight in front of the home fans at McKethan Stadium.

While this year’s team is missing most of the players that helped the Gators reach three consecutive College World Series, there is no need to stop by the dugout to console Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan is one of the game’s top recruiters and while the roster doesn’t have as much experience as the past few seasons, Florida’s sixth-year skipper is confident in the talent.

“I’m very proud of who we have right now and what we’ve been able to do,’’ O’Sullivan said earlier this week. “This team has got a chance to be very successful. It is just going to be in a different way."

Several newcomers are expected to play regularly, including freshman shortstop Richie Martin and freshman outfielder Harrison Bader. O’Sullivan was impressed by both in preseason camp and is comfortable with them in the starting lineup to open the season.

To get you ready for opening night, here are some news and notes:

Turns out Gators junior right-hander Karsten Whitson will be sidelined longer than expected.

According to Whitson's father, Kent, his son underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder Thursday performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.

Kent Whitson told PerfectGame.org that Karsten’s rehabilitation is expected to last at least four months, a timetable that means Whitson will miss Florida’s 2013 season.

Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan announced Wednesday that Whitson was sidelined with shoulder fatigue and that there was no timetable on his return.

After Whitson's father revealed his son's procedure Thursday, O'Sullivan told PerfectGame.org that he is optimistic that Whitson can return to full strength and resume his promising career.

Whitson was San Diego's first-round draft pick in 2010 and turned down a $2.1 million signing bonus to play for the Gators. Whitson was 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA as a freshman but was limited to only 33 innings last season due to assorted arm issues.

"We're very disappointed that Karsten won't be able to pitch for us this season,'' O'Sullivan said. “But on the other side of it, we're very excited he's going to be 100 percent at the end of this process. We look forward to getting him back on the mound in '14."

Whitson was expected to be Florida's No. 2 starter entering the season. However, O'Sullivan said the Gators' rotation for this weekend's season-opening series against Duke will be Jonathon Crawford on Friday, freshman Tucker Simpson on Saturday and sophomore Justin Shafer on Sunday.

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A player to keep a watch on in tonight’s season opener against Duke is outfielder Cory Reid, a redshirt freshman who did not play last season after joining the program from Port St. Lucie High, the same school that produced one-time big-league phenom Rick Ankiel.

Reid is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and bats and throws right-handed. He is expected to start in right field to open the season. O’Sullivan said Reid played well in the fall and carried that into preseason camp.

Reid played for the North Shore Navigators in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League last summer, and hit .194 and with three doubles and two RBIs. He stole four bases in seven attempts.

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A familiar face in a not-so-familiar position is infielder Cody Dent, who is expected to play some in center field because of his defensive ability. Dent has shined defensively at third base during his career but an inconsistent bat has prevented him from a regular spot on the lineup.

A senior, Dent hit .134 a year ago (11-for-82) as freshman Josh Tobias came in and took over as the starting third basemen. If Dent flashes his glove as usual and can improve at the plate, he could help fill the void left when center fielder Tyler Thompson left the program earlier this year.

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28 – Number of players Florida has lost the past two seasons (17 on roster, 11 commitments who signed professionally)

.820 – O’Sullivan’s winning percentage at McKethan Stadium in his five seasons (155 wins, 34 losses)

18 – Letterwinners returning for Gators, including four positional starters (1B Vickash Ramjit, 2B Casey Turgeon, 3B Josh Tobias and LF Justin Shafer)

12 – Consecutive games won against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, including a 10-0 record in 2012

99 – Number of seasons in Florida’s program history including 2013

61 -- Number of home runs lost from last season's NCAA-best 75

13 -- New players on this year's team

5 -- Consecutive wins on opening day for Gators

2 -- Seniors on the Gators' 34-man opening night roster

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TENTATIVE LINEUP FOR OPENER

C Taylor Gushue

1B Vickash Ramjit

2B Casey Turgeon

SS Richie Martin

3B Josh Tobias

LF Harrison Bader

CF Cody Dent

RF Cory Reid

DH Justin Shafer

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