South Carolina Keeping Top Pitchers

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said all
the right things to keep star closer Matt Price with the Gamecocks.

Price and staff ace Michael Roth were among several players for
two-time national champion South Carolina to pass up the pros for
another year in college. The deadline for major league clubs to
sign drafted players was Monday at midnight.

"Yesterday at this time, I told Matt he could do whatever he wanted. He could start, he could play third base, he could bat fourth," Tanner said Tuesday. "Now, today is different."

That's because Price couldn't agree to terms with the Arizona
Diamondbacks, who selected him in the sixth round of last June's
Major League Baseball draft. Tanner is likely to live up to one of
his 11th-hour promises and move Price into the starting rotation.

Price, who led Division I with 20 saves, showed some starter
stuff at the College World Series when he worked 5 2-3 innings of
the Gamecocks' 13-inning, 3-2 victory over Virginia at the College
World Series. Then Price earned his final two saves as South
Carolina clinched its second consecutive title with back-to-back
wins over Florida.

Price is now expected to combine with Roth, a Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year contender last season, to form one
of the league's most potent 1-2 combos. Roth was picked by Cleveland in the 31st round and made it clear since last June that he expected to return for his final season.

"We have Roth back and now with Matt, we may have an opportunity
to eat some quality innings going through and SEC weekend," Tanner
said. "We'll see what happens."

Price acknowledged that Arizona didn't meet his financial demand to give up college. The Diamondbacks were fair, Price added, "I just wasn't ready to leave."

And why should he? The Gamecocks should have one of the deepest staffs in college baseball.

Roth was 14-3 with a 1.06 earned-run average, second best in the
country. The Gamecocks two other weekend starters from last year's
championship team, Colby Holmes and Forrest Koumas, are also back.

Another starter on last year's team, Tyler Webb, chose to return
instead of signing with Cincinnati, which picked him in the 48th
round. Also coming back is South Carolina starting outfielder Adam
Matthews, a 23rd round pick of Baltimore.

Price would not discuss how much money he asked for. The Diamondbacks saw him as a starter or a closer, he said, but that
uncertainty did not have a bearing on Price's final decision.

"I think just for us coming back, we've got experience," Price said. "We can show the younger guys how the pitching staff goes about things."

Price was a star in both CWS wins, pitching the Gamecocks out of
several bases-loaded situations in 2010 and 2011. Tanner said the
coaching staff kicked around using Price as a starter this past
year until not wanting to give up his lock-down abilities at the
end.

Part of what makes the move more palatable for Tanner is the emergence of Koumas, a fiery freshman from this past year who went
6-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 12 starts. Tanner said Koumas attacked
hitters with a closer's confidence and might get the call in that
role next season if Price joins the rotation.

The Gamecocks will have plenty of questions to answer before the
season starts next February. They need to replace three infield
positions -- only first base starter Christian Walker returns -- and
catcher. Star outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. signed with Boston
after getting picked 40th overall and his recruited replacement,
Brian Goodwin, also agreed to a deal before the deadline.

Tanner will have to count on several promising newcomers, some
who turned down pro deals to play in college. Right-hander Evan
Beale was an eighth-round pick who said no to Kansas City while
outfielder Tanner English was taken in the 13th round by Tampa Bay.

Tanner has had another satisfying summer -- he said he posed for
photos and signed autographs for about 30 minutes at a restaurant
where he went for lunch -- after his team's second championship
triumph. The return of so many key players makes him hopeful of
another solid club in 2012.

"When you go through a year or two like we did with a lot of good players, sometimes the cupboard can be bare," Tanner said. "And we've been able to avoid that."


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