It has become a mental game for Chris Stratton. That's the concensus regarding the sophomore right-hander's struggles this season, and the key is to get him back to his old self.
Stratton will take to the mound Sunday against Tennessee, although there is a chance he could come out of the bullpen tonight or Saturday for a short stint. Even if that happens, he might still start Sunday.
My story gives a statistical illustration of Strat's struggles, but they only reflect what's going on between the ears.
"It is a mental thing with him," MSU coach John Cohen said. "When you throw balls up in the zone and you get behind people, you know everybody's depending on you – you're just trying so hard."
Stratton thinks being move from Friday to Sunday should help, as he'll have a chance to study Tennessee's hitters and get used to the environment. And he's hoping the work he's been doing this past week with pitching coach Butch Thompson will help him to regain his focus.
"Me and coach Thompson did a lot of work this week, especially mentally just trying to figure out everything," Stratton said. "More or less just need to go out there and pitch and not think about much. Execute the way I've been doing for a long time."
• Cohen spoke yesterday about Saturday starter Nick Routt as well. The junior lefty appears to be 100 percent over his elbow issues and has been off a restricted pitch count for a while. Last week against Alabama, he tied his season high with 88 pitches.
MSU just needs to get a few more innings out Routt, who's longest outing was five innings against Florida four weeks ago. Cohen likes the progress he's seeing.
"He's very, very capable," Cohen said. "He's been working on a couple of different pitches that he's excited about. He's really excited about a new changeup he's developed. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he just came out and pitched a game like we know NIck Routt can pitch this weekend."