No. 16 Mississippi State (33-10, 10-8 SEC) has a big road trip coming up this weekend at No. 3 Vanderbilt (36-6, 16-2), starting with Friday’s 6:30 p.m. tilt. We caught up with MSU coach John Cohen this morning on his weekly teleconference, and he previewed the series and talked about a few other things, including his pitching staff, which is in pretty good shape right now.
Let’s hit the highlights.
• We’ll start with the rotation, which Cohen expects to be the same as the last few weeks: Luis Pollorena on Friday, Kendall Graveman on Saturday and Jacob Lindgren on Sunday. Lindgren tossed eight-plus innings and struck out 11 against Auburn last weekend, so he seems good to go, but there is still a little bit of concern about the ankle he twisted three weeks ago.
“Unless Lindgren’s ankle deteriorates at all – and the reason I keep mentioning that is, there days where he runs on it where it’s great, and then there are other days where it’s a little bit more sore,” Cohen said. “It’s kind of a two steps forward, one step back type of thing. As long as the ankle is good, he can go pitch on Sunday.”
The rotation isn’t necessarily set up in an ideal manner – after all, Lindgren was the Friday starter before elbow soreness caused him to miss a start, leading to Pollorena’s insertion on Fridays. But it’s not at all a bad setup, Cohen said.
“Pollo gets us off to that really competitive start. Saturday’s the day you want to stay away from your bullpen, because usually Friday and Sunday are your bullpen days. If you get the Saturday quality start, then you’re going to give that one day of rest to your bullpen.”
Graveman has tossed three complete games in that Saturday slot.
• Vanderbilt is a red-hot team, having won 17 of its last 19 games. Those two losses came against Tennessee Tech and Georgia, which is curious, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
“They’re a club that could very easily end up in Omaha and make a run, because they’ve got depth, they defend it well, and it’s a championship-level club.”
Cohen had particular praise for starting pitchers Tyler Beede (10-0, 1.51 ERA) and Kevin Ziomek (7-2, 2.20).
“(Beede) was a freshman last year, and now he’s one of the premier guys not only in our league but in the country. The left-hander, Ziomek, my god, I was watching him on film, and he’s got three really good pitches.”
• I’m doing a story for tomorrow on MSU catcher Nick Ammirati, who has made huge strides this year and is currently handling full-time duties with Mitch Slauter sidelined by a hand injury. Ammirati was name SEC player of the week on Monday.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a player in my entire coaching career who’s evolved the way Nick Ammirati has,” Cohen said. “Our entire club really rejoiced in that award for him, because I think it’s just a testament to how hard he’s worked.”
• Speaking of Slauter, Cohen had an update on the senior, who’s missed the last five games with a fractured left hand.
“He’s campaigning that the bone is healing a lot faster, that kind of thing. That’s who he is. Dr. (Rusty) Linton‘s saying three weeks is the usual. It can be better than that, it could be worse than that. They’re just going to keep re-X-raying it over and over again, see about the development of that. We’re hopeful that he might be a little ahead of schedule, but you just don’t know until he gets to that point. Probably the Wednesday, Thursday before Alabama, we’ll really know.”
MSU’s series versus Alabama begins May 3 – a week from tomorrow.
• Cohen hasn’t used center fielder C.T. Bradford on the mound lately (his last appearance was April 7 versus Florida), but he hopes to soon, especially in lefty-vs.-lefty matchups.
“No question. No question. He’s going to pitch in some key situations. It just hasn’t presented itself, and we’ve been getting between Jonathan Holder, Ross Mitchell and our starters, it’s just been harder to create that. And I guess that’s a good problem to have, but certainly we have all the confidence in C.T. in the world. That slider’s real, and we’re going to use him.”
• And speaking of Mitchell, he tossed six innings at Memphis on Tuesday to pick up the win and improve to 8-0. He’s expected to be available this weekend.
“We’d prefer not to use him on Friday. It’s one of those wait-and-sees. He’s going to throw today a little bit, he’ll throw a little bit more tomorrow. We’ll see how he is at game time. It’s really a feel thing.”