There is little time for Mississippi State's baseball team to rest. The Bulldogs were swept at South Carolina and then took an eight-hour-plus bus ride back to Starkville. Tomorrow night it's a date with Ole Miss in Pearl, and then a three-game home series with Tennessee starts Thursday.
Coach John Cohen, with whom I spoke this morning, didn't sound overly concerned about the compacted schedule. He believes the pitching will be just fine due to its depth. And speaking of pitching, he said that as of right now this weekend's rotation will remain the same. So that means Chris Stratton on Thursday, Kendall Graveman on Friday, and TBA on Saturday. Cohen had considered keeping Stratton and Graveman on their normal days.
The concern for the Bulldogs (21-15, 5-10 SEC) is, of course, health. Cohen thinks that played a big role in what happened at Columbia. Two examples he pointed to: Outfielder Brent Brownlee diving for a shallow fly ball and coming up empty on Friday, aiding a four-run eighth inning for South Carolina, which won 7-6. Then on Sunday, third baseman Daryl Norris couldn't field a ground ball that could have been a double play in the fifth inning, and the Gamecocks scored three runs en route to a 6-4 win.
"When you look at a kind of side-spin ball off the barrel, off a jam shot to Daryl Norris, and he can't plant on his right leg to pick up a ball, it's hard to look Daryl Norris in the eye and be upset with that," Cohen said. "He can't plant on his right leg to pick up the ball. He leans down to pick up the ball and step on the bag, and he's in excruciating pain, he just can't do it. …
"Brent Brownlee on Friday night, there's a soft line drive, a little looper into right field. He's going to make that play; he's made it a thousand times. But he can't get to it because his knee is killing him."
Norris started two games at third base over the weekend, the first time he'd been in the field since injuring his knee in early March. Brownlee also has a knee injury. Both guys had those knees drained last week, and Cohen said Norris is at 50 percent, but he'll remain at third.
"We've got to have that bat in the lineup. … He's our best option. A guy who has experience, who's been around, who's played at a high level."
Cohen expects his team's overall health to improve as the season goes on, but with the SEC schedule already at the midway point, that needs to happen quickly.
"I feel like we're going to start to click a little bit more offensively in the second half and hopefully these guys with injuries, we can start getting them closer to being game-ready," Cohen said.
• State plays Ole Miss tomorrow night at Trustmark Park in the annual Governor's Cup. Freshman Brandon Woodruff (0-0, 2.70 ERA) will start on the mound, and Cohen still plans to get Ben Bracewell some work as he comes back from a lingering elbow injury.
I'll have more in Tuesday's Journal.