Kreuter takes the cake at California Coaches Cookoff

Well, not exactly.

But USC baseball coach Chad Kreuter did take to the kitchen Friday morning in a cookoff between 12 Southern California baseball head coaches. It wasn't pretty — Kreuter took home the "Kitchen Nightmare" award after a disastrous attempt at a chicken pasta dish.

It was all part of Easton’s California College Baseball Media Day at ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. Afterward, Kreuter answered some questions about his team's expectations this season.

In his fourth season with the Trojans, Kreuter says he feels his team has finally gotten over the hump.

“I have more confidence going into this season than any of the three previous seasons," said Kreuter, a veteran of 16 big-league seasons. "Each of the three previous years we’ve had huge question marks – the pitching staff, depth, quality of starting pitching. This year we have our best pitching staff as a whole."

Never mind that early predictions have USC as a bottom-feeder in the Pacific 10 Conference. Opposing coaches don't agree.

“All of the expert’s predictions don’t mean much," said UCLA coach John Savage of his crosstown rival. "Every year they’re going to have good players."

USC will be led by power hitter Ricky Oropesa and right-handed starter Andrew Triggs, but six of last season's key players have left after being drafted in June, including first-rounder Grant Green and second-round picks Brad Boxberger and Robert Stock.

In Green's spot, Kreuter says he plans to use shortstop Taylor Wrenn, a sophomore transfer from a Florida junior college. Wrenn will be penciled into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, just behind incumbent leadoff man Mike O'Neill.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder has been chosen in the MLB draft in each of the last two years but declined to sign. He earned all-state second-team honors at Manatee College last season, hitting .386 with seven home runs.

“Taylor Wrenn, he’s the captain of the infield," Kreuter said. "He will definitely be a good addition at shortstop and I think he’s going to hold his own as a starting Pac-10 hitter."

Other newcomers for the Trojans include outfielder Alex Glenn (McDonough, Ga.), infielderMatthew Foat (Rescue, Calif.) and infielderMatt Hart (Tacoma, Wash.), the latter two being junior college transfers.

Each could play sizable roles this season, but Kreuter spotlighted Glenn, who he said could start from day one in center field.

"He runs a 6.2 second 60-yard dash, he’s got a sweet powerful swing, he’s going to be real good," Kreuter said. "Alex is going to be like [former USC and MLB outfielder] Jacque Jonesat some point – he’ll be that type of center fielder for USC."

Of course, there's also outfielder Jawanza Starling (Tallahassee, Fla.), and righthander Nick Berhel (Benicia, Calif.) — both freshmen.

Each have an interesting story: Starling was a four-star safety recruit out of high school and plays for the USC football team as well; Berhel is New York Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia's cousin.

USC's season opener is four weeks from today, a weekend series with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Holes left for Kreuter to fill before then include the backstop spot, where Stock was a three-year starter, and the closer's role.

A surprise transfer, senior righthander Shuhei Fujiya (Irvine, Calif.) might be just the guy Kreuter is looking for at the end of his bullpen. Fujiya served as Northern Iowa's closer last season, recording a 3.97 ERA and nine saves in 21 appearances but left when the program was disbanded.

As for Kreuter's cooking-related winnings, well, let's just say the prize package included an easy-bake oven, a fire extinguisher, and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.