IN A Tennessee report Tony Vitello was let go from the team that was scheduled to depart following…

Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello met with the local media on Monday afternoon before the Vols hit the road for the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

The regular season SEC Champions have already locked up a top eight national seed heading into the SEC Tournament so the stakes are lower for them compared to a number of teams.

Vitello discussed what the pitching plan could be for the Vols’ SEC Tournament opener on Wednesday, the defensive improvements of Blake Burke and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said.

More From RTI: Tennessee Baseball Holding Strong At Top Spot In Various Rankings

On what he’d like to accomplish at SEC Tournament

“To have the pitching sorted. You want to use a certain amount of guys, get them action. It’s been a little bit— heck even DLoy started a game for us but some time will pass and you want to keep guys in somewhat of a rhythm but it’s also an imperfect time of year so they need to be willing to go at any time and take on whatever role which literally something comes up where it’s the first time they’ve done it all year but they take the ball and you run with it because it’s the same deal. We’re in a race to get 27 outs and however we can get them, we’ll take it. We would like to use those guys, as many of them as possible, and not wear anyone out to the point where they’re breaking their record for personal amount of pitches thrown. Then two, to prepare the right way so we’re in a rhythm. Even staying hydrated, but you name it. Make sure preparation is going the way it’s been going most of the year for us because I believe firmly it will bleed into the game if we’re doing that.”

On if they’re even more mindful of pitch counts this week before the NCAA Tournament

“Yeah a little bit. I think if you look at our innings pitched, they’re spread out. We always try to do that. The 10 run-rule kind of messes with that a little bit, but they’re spread out pretty good. So even though certain guys have made a bunch of appearances for us, no one has really maxed out innings. I think Drew (Beam) is in a position where he’ll come close to what he did last year. I don’t even know what his number was but he has kind of held a steady pace, but there’s been a lot of games too where he’s frustrated (that) he’s only at 100 but he feels good and can keep on going. I don’t know what that magic number is for each guy, but I do think we have a sense of how much they’ve been asked of this year and what they’re capable of doing. And I think we’re in a good spot. Don’t want to go crazy but I think we’re in a good spot.”

On if Dylan Dreiling goes under the radar outside of the program

“Well he’s a draft eligible sophomore and I think he’s getting noticed plenty by the people that will take him away from us. Maybe that’s what matters most. I don’t know how much applause he gets online at times when he does things but when his time is done he’s going to have about as many highlights as anyone that’s played here and only had done it in a short amount of time and a lot of those coming as a freshman. Not only that, a lot of them coming off the bench as a freshman where he was getting as much repetitions as other people. I don’t know how you pick one guy apart and say ‘we would be the same team without him’ and I don’t know how you do it the other way too. It’s been, if you look at every day— you could say one day, ‘this is the key player’ or ‘this is the best pitcher’— but if you look at everyday we’ve been here on campus since August, I wouldn’t want to be without anyone that’s with our team currently and I don’t know that we could accomplish what we’ve been able to do thus far without all of them being involved. It could be anyone on any given day that’s the hero but everyone seems to be involved when we’re playing.”

On Dylan Dreiling’s ability to drive in runs this season

“I think keeping calm. A guy like David Ortiz is considered clutch because of what he was able to do in the ninth inning and extra innings. But he also probably hit a bunch of homers in like the second innings of his career. It’s just him being him and maybe some other guys get wrapped up with the extra yelling in the stands or maybe back and forth in the dugout or what the count is or the scoreboard. He seems to be very competitive at all times and doesn’t seem to waiver where he gives up an at-bat or gives away too much value to another one.”

On if Dylan Dreiling’s progression has been surprising or expected

“Recruiting, the rules have changed a little bit. If you date back to when we first watched him, he was recruited by our staff as a pitcher and an outfielder. The pitching has definitely gone away so when you look at the whole progression, it makes you smile, laugh and appreciate where he’s at. But if you just talk about from day one, he’s always shown the ability to hit. It’s been more about adding the physicality which they are in the weight room now. He’s very strong. He has put in a lot of work to do so. He’s such a better base runner than he was when he first got here and has become something that is more than reliable in the outfield for us. He has a real good feel for the game, not that he didn’t early but he’s matured in a lot of areas that now prop up his hitting even more. Which has always been there, at least to a certain extent.”

On if there’s less of a worry about the SEC Tournament hampering preparation for the NCAA Tournament since Tennessee will be hosting

“Maybe. I haven’t thought of it that way. Some teams will leave Saturday, stay in Hoover Saturday night and if they win it, they would stay in Hoover all the way until Sunday. Even, I was on a team previously where we stayed Sunday night after we played in the finals. So, if you were then to go on the road for a regional after that, that is a lot of hotel room nights. It’s not like you can’t perform under those circumstances. Last year, quick turnaround for us between Clemson and Southern Miss. And a lot of hotel nights combined in between, but you would like to get into routines, and I think being in Hoover, staying in nice hotels they put you up in, they take such good care of you, the city has done an unreal job. So, I think once you’re there, the circumstances are ideal for our guys to get rest. Once you’re on the field there, it’s chaos. It’s a tournament. Who knows. There’s rain delays and things like that. So it’s up to them and up to us to help them manage their workload a little bit. These aren’t guys who have been in the NBA since they got drafted out of high school. Workload is probably a little over-exaggerated.”

On what’s gone into Blake Burke’s transformation defensively

“I think taking pride in it. He’s always had good actions over there and I think taking pride in it and then making adjustments. There’s been some guys on our team, and our team in general has reflected that. We’ve kind of continued to push forward a little bit. We’ve talked about that in here with you guys. We don’t have our final set rotation or this or that. We kind of have settled in for the most part of stuff, but there’s still some variability. There’s still some areas where you can see guys getting better. We don’t get picked off on a couple of line drive balls, was huge for us. Maybe goes unnoticed, but for coaches, maybe those are things we are doing better now than we were. He’s just taking pride in it and continued to evolve a little bit. But I think the root of how he is as a teammate, with the other first basemen and how he plays the game and approaches it, his best coach here is Luc Lipcius and that’s saying a lot because him and Josh (Elander) are pretty dang close. But Luc gets a lot of credit for that. It’s pretty cool to see the team element on the current team, but also, if you go outside our inner-family circle right now, there’s some spokes coming off that, if that makes sense.”

“Yeah, I think so because of experience, seeing what it looks like, but then also knowing what it takes to navigate it. What can happen, a freshman can go out and have a phenomenal season. We got some freshmen that are doing well for us. A lot of times what hurts a freshman is not the ability, they’re just so dang eager. I want to, I want to, I want to. And I think there’s an interesting calm about the team when we get into all those one-to-one Sundays, or day three’s that we’ve had. There’s an interesting calm about them. Even the one we lost in Tuscaloosa, even though we’ve obviously gotten better from there, so some guys have experienced either in junior college with other schools, or here, or even watching it on TV when they were a signee with us. So, if you’re talking about managing a work load, that’s a bigger one to me. Is your excitement, your giddiness and when you celebrate and when do you get upset, and when you cheer for this or that. I think this group has that as a strength.”

On Tennessee winning the SEC Championship in men’s basketball, baseball and softball

“It’s great. Talk about evolving, everything is pushing forward with the facilities, the fanbase has always been — ever since I grew up in St. Louis — the fan base was very well known and it’s impossible to wear orange and go in an airport whether they know you’re a part of the athletic department or not. They want to talk about it. All those things are already good, and even great, but they’re pushing forward, so we got to hold up our weight around here. But that was an impressive performance by them (softball) yesterday.”

On if he’ll need to convince himself in the heat of competition at the SEC Tournament to allow inexperienced arms to pitch a little longer than they ordinarily would

“We’ll script it ahead of time, and then just kind of feel it out as the game is going on. Unfortunately Plan A, as much time as you put into it, rarely occurs. It can, if all things go right, but I would expect more chaos and we’ll probably end up approaching that game (by) piecing it together. And the good thing is, like I said, we feel comfortable about the guys we have. We have guys that are getting outs and are getting better at getting outs. We have guys that have gone unused, or I could even say for their defense, underused, that are available to get outs and (are) capable of getting outs. And you’d like to add AJ into the mix like we talked about a little bit (on Saturday). So, throw them all into a pile or in a pot. We’re just trying to get to 27 (outs). If we play good defense behind them, I think it’s a solid enough group that we can stay competitive.”

On if sophomore RHP AJ Russell is on track to be available at the SEC Tournament

“Yeah, I think when and where and how will depend a little bit — I know I didn’t talk with him I guess — I told you guys he was done getting on the mound before we go there, but he put in some work on the mound today, which was good. I’d rather he pile up some reps and feel comfortable, so we’ll see tomorrow where he’s at and where is the best spot to insert him, ‘cause alls we’re guaranteed is two games. So somewhere in those first two games.”

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