After winning its first national championship, UCLA will open its 2014 season with arguably the thinnest infield of coach John Savage’s tenure.
All-conference honorable mention Kevin Kramer could soon undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, leaving the Bruins with just two returning starters along the base paths: catcher Shane Zeile and first baseman Pat Gallagher. UCLA ranked second in the Pac-12 in fielding last year (.980), but lost shortstop Pat Valaika — the team’s first Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year — and Cody Regis, a 39-game starter at second base.
After starting all 66 games at third base during the Bruins’ 2013 title run, Kramer had been slated to move to shortstop. The team will make a decision on his possible surgery by next Monday. He and Savage had discussed using him exclusively as a designated hitter, but later ruled out that plan.
Infielder Kevin Williams is also battling a shoulder injury, and will be sidelined until mid-March. If healthy, the 29th-round draft pick would likely be UCLA’s everyday second baseman.
Junior Chris Keck will start at third base when the Bruins open their season against Portland on Friday. Sophomore Trent Chatterton will start at shortstop, while sophomore Brett Urabe will start at second base. The three have 36 combined career starts in the infield.
Right fielder Eric Filia (labrum) is already ruled out for the season, though outfield depth makes the loss of his bat more costly than his glove. Sophomore lefty pitcher Hunter Virant is also out for the season with a back injury.