Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies used starting in the hole

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by the Virginia Tech spring scrimmage: Finally, it's like an actual game!

Q: What do you mean?

A: Frank Beamer announced this week that Maroon team, which has all the starters on it, will begin the game in a 21-0 hole to the reserve-laden White team. The notoriously slow-starting Hokies should feel right at home.

Q: Cheap shot. But really, what do you think of the format?

A: I like it, particularly for this year's team. One of the things I've always disliked about the spring game is that the offensive lines typically have been mixed and matched, so: 1. You have a ton of touch "sacks," which nobody likes watching; and 2. You don't really get a feel for how the O-line is operating as a unit. For this year's team, which is replacing all but the center on the offensive line, the development of that unit is critical.

Q: But won't those grunts now just be performing against inferior defenders, keeping it difficult to determine much of anything?

A: Perhaps, but I prefer this to the alternative. Besides, the defensive line is one of Tech's deepest units this year. Those reserves are pretty good.

Q: So who do you got? Is the Maroon team going to overcome the deficit and win?

A: Nope. White all the way.

Q: Anything surprise you during the first Salem Red Sox homestand of the year?

A: Rich Hill. Not that he was unscored upon in three rehab outings over six days - a seven-year major leaguer should be able to dominate Carolina League competition - but just the way he interacted with the other players.

Q: How's that?

A: He stayed in the dugout during the entire game and cheered on his teammates. He participated in all the pitchers' fielding practice several hours before the games. Basically, he acted like a bona fide member of the team.

Q: So?

A: So that's rare; usually guys like that will just get their work in and disappear. For a big leaguer, he certainly didn't "big league" anybody - unless you count buying steaks for the team for the postgame spread, which is a longstanding rehab custom.

Q: Today's paper notes that we've got Daisuke Matsuzaka making a rehab start for Salem here on Monday. Is the whole Boston team going to make a cameo this year?

A: I'm sure the Red Sox hope not. But last year's AL MVP runner-up, Jacoby Ellsbury, is going to have to rehab from his injured shoulder at some point, too. Would be cool to see him at Salem Memorial Ballpark.

Q: Reader comment of the week on the blog?

A: Let's go with Ralph, on The Masters Champions Dinner menu next year after Bubba Watson's victory: "Appetizers of Gator bites and Bud Lites. The traditional toasts saluted with chilled Red Ripple in green Solo cups. Born-again Bubba giving the blessing followed, of course, by a chorus of Amens.

"Main course of grilled catfish under glass and flowering collards - both dishes being Bubba's latest hook to again please the Augusta National members. Finally, Moon Pies around the General Lee."

Q: Would you eat that meal?

A: Heck yeah! If anyone's making that at their spring game tailgate today, let me know.

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