Rebels With A Cause
Lynn and Satterwhite aim to carry Ole Miss to Omaha
COLUMBIA, S.C.—Mike Bianco calls them the "Bobbsey twins." Mississippi junior righthanders Cody Satterwhite and Lance Lynn aren't sure exactly what that means, but they've got a general idea.
"That's a new one," Satterwhite said. "He calls us pretty much anything that has to do with being together all the time. We roomed together my freshman year, and he came from Indiana, I'm coming from Jackson, Mississippi, we had two different types of families, and I guess we just bonded. They put us together coming in as the high-profile guys, so we kind of had to be friends because we were together all the time."
From their first month on Mississippi's campus, Lynn and Satterwhite were inextricably linked, throwing their first bullpen sessions together, eating together, competing with each other. Their personalities were very different, but they only grew closer over the next two and a half years.
"Lance is quiet, kind of reserved, to himself," said Bianco, the Rebels' eighth-year coach. "Cody's the outspoken one, the one you always hear from the back of the bus, the guy that's always smiling, always laughing. Lance is a happy guy, but more reserved, but they're always together. They've been roommates together, played on the USA team together—every time you see them they're together."
Naturally, familiarity breeds banter.
"Yeah, we get after each other a little bit," Lynn said. "We know what buttons to push on each other to get each other going. That's just something that's worked over the years. It's worked well for us. He's a fun-loving guy, he doesn't get mad too much. I have to kind of get him mad, get him riled up before each game, kind of get him fired up before each game."
So, does it work?
"Oh yeah, it works," said Satterwhite, sitting next to Lynn in the visiting dugout at South Carolina's Sarge Frye Field. "He knows what buttons to push."
Bianco figured out another button to push to get the most out of Satterwhite. Coming out of Hillcrest High in Byram, Miss., in 2005, Satterwhite was a blue-chipper, ranking as the No. 39 prospect for the draft that year, but his commitment to Ole Miss caused him to slide to the Indians in the 37th round of the draft. He stepped right into a prominent role as a freshman, going 11-2, 5.00 in 23 appearances, including seven starts. He was strictly a closer as a sophomore, going 4-4, 3.31 with four saves before filling the same role for Team USA in the summer.
But this year, the Rebels decided to move Satterwhite to the Saturday starter spot, where his quality four-pitch arsenal and ability to hold his mid-90s fastball velocity deep into games were assets. But he struggled early in the year, so Bianco decided to move him to Sundays and insert freshman lefthander Drew Pomeranz into the Saturday role.
"The reason we moved him to Sunday is really to break him and Lance up," Bianco said. "I really thought it was a disservice to him in the sense that as different as they are in the way they throw, the approach from the opposing team is very similar: you're facing two big, power righthanders that both throw breaking balls. The only difference is Satterwhite has the changeup and Lance really doesn't. But your approach offensively is basically the same.
"(Satterwhite has) really pitched well the last three or four weeks. The expectations are so high, and if a guy gives up a run or a guy goes 0-for-4, people want to know, 'Hey, what's wrong with that guy?' He's a guy that's ultra-talented, that's got as good a fastball as anybody in the country, and he's got four good pitches, I mean four legit pitches—he throws a curve, a slider and a change. And he's a tremendous athlete, he's got one of those bodies that it's almost unfair to have. We have this Omaha challenge, it's kind of a strength and agility thing in the fall, he's won it two years in a row, and that's with the position players. He's even challenged (fleet-footed outfielder) Jordan Henry to a race."
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Satterwhite certainly looks the part of an elite prospect. And his stuff has been excellent, but he's still struggled with his control at times this year, often leading to one big inning that causes his undoing. He's 3-3, 4.83 on the year with 35 strikeouts and 23 walks in 50 innings.
Satterwhite said he has no preference when it comes to starting or closing, but Lynn is a starter all the way, and has been since he arrived at Ole Miss as an unsigned sixth-round pick of the Mariners out of Brownsburg (Ind.) High. Lynn has a naturally hulking frame, which lends to his intimidating mound presence, but he was overweight as a freshman, and still went 7-3, 4.96 in 85 innings. As a sophomore, he went 8-5, 2.85 with a school-record 146 strikeouts in 123 innings, and he's off to a 5-1, 3.79 start in 2008, with 67 strikeouts and 14 walks in 55 innings. He's firmed up his body considerably since he was a freshman and is now listed at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, but Bianco said he's added muscle since last fall.
"He's always been big, he's always been that type of guy, but the fact is he's in the best shape of his life now," Bianco said of Lynn. "He has his regimen that he knows he has to do, but he's gotten better with that at times. He's the ultimate competitor, he's the best winner that we've ever had."
That fierceness is Lynn's defining characteristic. He has good stuff, with a heavy low-90s fastball, an average 72-75 mph curveball and a high-70s slider that he has developed over the fall. But his bread and butter is attacking hitters with his fastball.
"He's more the in-your-face, I'm-coming-after-you, throws a heavy ball and dominates with his fastball," Satterwhite said of Lynn's pitching style. "I'm more the fastball, throw a couple other pitches, mix it up, more of a pitcher, living more on pitching. He can live more on his dominance, going out there. When his fastball's on, it's hard to hit, and he cruises with it. So he's more the dominating, overpowering stuff, and I'm more the laid-back kind of pitch and hit your spots."
They've got two different approaches, but Lynn and Satterwhite know the Rebels are relying on them to reach the College World Series after three straight super-regional defeats. Having a pair of second-team preseason All-Americans in the weekend rotation is an unusual luxury. Lynn and Satterwhite fully understand their responsibility both on the field and in the clubhouse.
"Guys really look up to us and really look to us to answer any questions they have," Lynn said. "We're kind of the older guys here now, so we take that on. This is the year we want to go to Omaha—this might be our last year in college baseball. So we have no problem being the leaders, and we want guys to look for us and get on our back, because we plan on carrying them to the World Series."