Mississippi State (24-8, 3-6 SEC) is back in action at home this weekend, hosting Florida (14-16, 4-5) for a big three-game series. The Bulldogs are still trying to work out some issues with its starting rotation, and we spoke with coach John Cohen about it this morning on a teleconference.
The rotation this weekend will be the same as last: Luis Pollorena on Friday, Kendall Graveman on Saturday, and TBA on Sunday. Cohen said how the bullpen gets used the first two games will largely determine who starts Sunday, and he threw out Ross Mitchell as a possible candidate. Mitchell, a long reliever, is second on the team with 37 1/3 innings pitched. The sophomore left-hander has one career start, allowing one run on two hits in two innings against Mercer last season.
As for Jacob Lindgren, the normal Friday starter who sat last week with elbow soreness, his status for the weekend remains questionable.
“Still not 100 percent sure where Lindgren is,” Cohen said. “He threw off flat ground yesterday, and he said he felt fine. We’ll wait and see how that unfolds. Obviously we’re a better team on the weekend with Jacob Lindgren, so hopefully we’ll get him back.”
Cohen said he couldn’t put a percentage on the odds of Lindgren returning this weekend, saying it’s difficult to know how effective he can be until he’s out there in a game situation.
“The bullpen stuff is great, it gives you an indication, but you’re just not going to know until he gets into a game, and we’ll know,” Cohen said. “… That’s one of the great things about Butch (Thompson, pitching coach), is he knows. He’s going to know instantaneously with his guys whether it’s going to happen or not, maybe even in the bullpen prior to a game. We’ll just wait and see, but all indications seem like he is progressing.”
I’ve got some more excerpts from Cohen’s chat, much of them about pitching.
From opening comment:
“We love the opportunity to a win series and feel like we’ve played well enough to win every series we’ve played in this year. … I really believe we can get on a roll, and hopefully that starts this weekend. I thought we played well in segments at Arkansas.”
On the availability of catcher Mitch Slauter, who’s been out since last week after having surgery on a throat abscess:
“He’s weak, really weak, because he went through a four-day stand where he really couldn’t do anything at all. With the amount of antibiotics and things of that nature running through his body, he was in a weakened state. I would’ve loved to have given him some playing time on Tuesday, but we just felt like that wasn’t realistic. I’m very confident that we’re going to have him back for the weekend, we just don’t know how much yet.”
On what he sees in Florida:
“I see a really young club that could get on a roll at any moment. I see a team that’s played one of the best schedules in the country. I see a team that just lost a tremendous amount of leadership, athleticism, skill – the whole thing. And it’s just really hard in the first half of the season after losing what they lost to get right back to where they were.”
How big a step was Tuesday for Brandon Woodruff, who tossed six innings of one-run, three-hit ball against South Alabama:
“For him to go out there and get that deep into a ballgame for us is really important. I think he thinks he pitched OK, and he can actually go out there and do better and stretch himself a little further. It’s a good start for him after not pitching for a while. He needs to take that and run with it.”
How is Evan Mitchell handling his situation after being taken out of the starting rotation?
“He threw a bullpen down at South Alabama on Tuesday, and it was just lights out. It was very, very good. I know people get tired of hearing things like that, but that’s very positive to us. He had some command issues, and we feel like he is – Kendall used the word road map – he’s kind of developing a road map to dealing with his command. We feel like he’s really progressing in that area. We’d love to see him get back out there soon, maybe in a relief-type role.”