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Martin balances losses, potential

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was 2 a.m., and Mike Martin was wide awake.

Thirty-three years have passed since his first sleepless night wondering about the future, and it hasn't gotten any easier. In fact, this summer might even be a bit worse than most.

The latest defection from Martin's Florida State lineup was second baseman Devon Travis, who received a bonus well above slot to sign with the Tigers, thus officially depleting FSU of its top four hitters.

The Seminoles, fresh off a College World Series appearance, will open the 2012-13 season without a single .300 hitter, and those are the types of things that keep Martin awake at night.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Martin said. "I was sitting there thinking of, 'What are we going to do?' Then I realized it's just way too early to start worrying about that because there's nothing I can do."

Well, that's not entirely true.

Martin and his staff will have their sights set on covering every square inch of the recruiting trail in hopes that an influx of young talent will help offset the losses of Travis, fellow junior Jayce Boyd and seniors Sherman Johnson and All-American James Ramsey.

That, of course, won't be an easy task.

"You don't replace a James Ramsey or a Devon Travis or a Jayce Boyd in one year," Martin said. "You're starting basically over from an offensive standpoint. Those were the top four hitters on our club, and we lost them all."

Martin said he expects infielder Justin Gonzalez, who was drafted in the 27th round by the Dodgers, to return for his senior season. Infielder John Holland will be back with the program next season, despite losing his scholarship after an arrest on shoplifting charges during the College World Series.

Still, the offense will be in flux during the early season, and Martin won't be able to rely entirely on the Seminoles' arms to carry them. Plenty of question surround the bullpen, too.

Setup man Gage Smith returns, but the Seminoles lost seventh-inning man Hunter Scantling and closer Robert Benincasa to the draft, too.

Benincasa was a particularly tough blow. He saved 16 games, struck out 58 batters and finished the year with a 1.32 ERA, establishing himself as one of the nation's most reliable closers.

When FSU opens the new season, Martin said there's a good chance he'll be using a closer-by-committee approach.

"At the present time, I have no idea who is going to fill that role," Martin said. "I don't have any idea if we've got anybody to fill that role."

While Benincasa's departure leaves a vacancy at the back end of the pen, his success in 2011-12 also provides some hope.

After spending the summer of 2011 pitching in the Cape Cod League, Benincasa returned to Tallahassee a new pitcher -- showing better command of his pitches and more life on his fastball. His ERA dropped by more than two runs from 2011 to 2012.

A bevy of Seminoles will follow a similar path this year, including a handful who are pitching on the Cape, and Martin remains optimistic that at least one or two will make the same leap forward that Benincasa did a year ago.

Tops on that list is right-hander Luke Weaver, a rising sophomore who finished with a 5.93 ERA in 16 appearances last season.

"He is a guy that we really feel was close and didn't get an awful lot of opportunities," Martin said. "Luke Weaver is a guy that has got to figure in this mix somewhere."

Bryan Holtman and Kyle Bird will also receive special attention in the early going, Martin said.

And if Martin talks enough about the potential for growth among his returning cast, a good bit of that anxiety begins to fade. After all, there's plenty of time to find answers for next year still. For now, it's easier to reflect on a great season that just ended, Martin said.

"This is certainly a year I'll never forget, and it all deals with the type of young men we had on this club," he said. "You just don't find better people."

And that, of course, is what makes looking ahead so tough.