There was a stretch where the Arizona Wildcats’ lineup went largely unchanged for a few weekends, but now things are starting to get shaken up a little bit.
Cameron Cannon has started six of the team’s last eight games at second base after starting just 12 of the first 31. And on Tuesday, Matt Fraizer made his second start of the season, and the first since opening weekend.
“It was after batting practice they let me know,” Fraizer said about when he found out he was going to make his second start. “It’s just a game. It’s baseball and I’ve been playing my whole life so I just made sure I was ready for it.”
“It was cool to finally see Fraizer in the starting lineup,” fellow freshman Nick Quintana added. “We have such a good outfield that it kinda sucks sometimes that he doesn’t get the playing time that I think he should get, but it comes down to who can play the best, and when he got in the starting lineup today, it was kind of cool to see how the next two or three years would play out.”
“He’s a good player man,” head coach Jay Johnson said when asked about that particular decision against New Mexico State. “You guys are gonna be talking about him all the time, and maybe he should’ve played more to this point, and probably will play more.”
“Matt could end up being the best player in the program at some point, maybe sooner than later,” added Johnson. “I really believe that.”
Fraizer went 1-for-3 and walked once against NMSU.
“I’ve been seeing the ball really good lately these past couple days,” Fraizer said of his performance against the Aggies. “I just tried to stay aggressive with my swing without holding back. Just try to let it go and be aggressive out there.”
“For the first time starting in a while, I thought he did exceptionally well,” added Quintana. “He came up big when he needed to, so it was definitely cool to see.”
So with Fraizer in the lineup, Arizona had him in right, Cannon at second, and Quintana at third, something that Wildcat fans should probably get used to seeing at Hi Corbett in the coming years.
“We’ll be pretty good with the three of us and then adding in some other guys,” Fraizer added. “It’s definitely exciting to see all three of us play today.”
“There were a lot of dudes that are gonna be running around this diamond for a long time doing some really good things tonight,” Johnson added about having three freshmen out there at once.
“Oh hell yeah — sorry heck yeah — excuse me, that’s how excited I am,” coach exclaimed when asked if Tuesday was a small glimpse into the future. “The three guys that we had out there are really winning-type players, and they’re great players too and when you get a program going the way you want it to, sometimes that’s how it should be, where your older guys are more ready to help you win and the young guys push ‘em, and those three are great.”
“For the rest of this year, hopefully they keep doing it, and I’m building the program around them,” continued Johnson. “I have no problem saying that.”
That’s a pretty big statement in the middle of a year where Arizona had been in the top three of the RPI all season up until this week.
“It feels good,” Fraizer responded when hearing about that comment from Johnson. “But you still gotta come to the field, work hard, keep getting better, and just because he says that doesn’t mean it’s going to be handed to you, so you gotta earn your spot.”
“It’s a good feeling,” Quintana tacked on about hearing Johnson’s statement. “Every year there’s a bunch of guys that will come in, so there’s always going to be those JuCo transfers or those incoming true freshmen that are going to come in and take some people’s spots, but for him to say that he’s building the program around us, it’s exciting and I would say comfortable.”
“I don’t like using that word too much because I like to be the best I can be and grind every day and practice hard, but I think him building the program around us is exciting because I know we’ll be in the starting lineup the next two or three years and we can have this bond together going into the future that we were the dudes, so it’s cool to see that.”
For Fraizer and Cannon, they’ve been able to learn a lot about the college game even though they haven’t played nearly as much as a guy like Quintana.
“I’ve had a really good learning experience out here,” Fraizer explained. “Each game I take an older guy and see how they play the game, and every day I just try to get better by watching every guy by seeing how they play; it’s helping me a lot.”
“Even when I’m on the bench I still try to embrace my role,” Cannon said of his situation before the Utah series. “Just be a good teammate and get energy in the dugout but it’s a lot of fun. I learn a lot just from watching. Good at bats lead to better outcomes, so I just try to learn from other hitters on the team.”
The day when these two guys stop watching and start playing all the time is coming quick, and maybe it’s coming quicker than we thought just a few weeks ago.