HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss pitcher Scott Bittle went through tests with Birmingham physician Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday, and now there is a name associated with Bittle’s arm soreness: “strained anterior capsule.”
The recommended treatment is continued rest and observation.
“His status is the same as far as being day-to-day. It will get better with rest, and that’s all we can do is let him rest,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “There is no set timetable for his return. There is a possibility that he could be ready for next week, but we’ll have to see how things work out.”
The Rebels’ depth of pitching has taken another hit with the absence of middle reliever Rory McKean for undisclosed reasons.
A junior right-hander from Montgomery, McKean has a 4.50 earned run average in 42 innings over 19 appearances. He’s been less successful in SEC games where his ERA jumps to 6.52 in 19 1-3 innings.
Pitchers Matt Tracy and Wade Broyles, with 11 appearances between them, are part of the travel roster in place of Bittle and McKean.
Bittle, a senior right-hander from Texarkana, Texas, has been dominant when he’s pitched, but he hasn’t pitched that much. He began the season in the bullpen and hasn’t pitched since April 26 because of what had been called arm soreness. As an SEC starter he was 4-0 with a 1.29 earned run average and 49 strikeouts in 38 innings.
Henson’s big day
– While the Rebels were unable to get key hits in their 6-3 opening-round loss to Georgia, they did get three from catcher Kyle Henson, including the team’s only hit with runners in scoring position.
Henson was 3-for-5 and drove in a run with a single to center field in the seventh.
“The biggest thing for me all year has been to try and stay consistent. I had a good weekend last week, but you want to carry it over to the tournament, just keep swinging and try to get runners in,” he said.
Henson was the SEC’s player of the week for the final week of the regular season. He was 6-for-12 at Arkansas last weekend with six runs scored, eight RBIs and a .971 slugging percentage.
“He’s been a cog in the middle of our lineup for the last month or so and has brought a big spark in so many ways. You saw today with the basehits, but he leads the team in home runs and has a lot less at-bats than a lot of players,” Bianco said.
– Starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz looked sharp and was hitting spots against the Bulldogs early but gave up two singles and two walks in the sixth – in addition to Matt Cerione’s grand slam.
Pomeranz was asked if he felt the strike zone was squeezing tighter, and Bianco quickly answered on behalf of his sophomore left-hander.
“He doesn’t want to answer that. We’re not going to talk about the umpires,” Bianco said.
Pomeranz said: “The pitches could have gone either way, I was just trying to attack the strike zone like I was the whole game.”
– The Rebels’ quest for one of the top eight national seeds for the NCAA tournament did not get off to a good start.
They figure to be in a strong position to host a four-team regional after a 20-10 SEC regular season that culminated with a share of the overall title. Trophies were presented to both LSU and Ole Miss prior to their games Wednesday.
Earning a national seed would allow the Rebels to play at home not only for the regional but in a super regional should they advance. Ole Miss was the No. 5 national seed in 2005 when it lost the super regional at home to Texas.
Bianco said he doesn’t see today’s meeting with the Gators as a must-win for a national seed.
“We talked about it before the tournament, the further you go, the better your chances. That’s still true. Our focus can’t be about that. Our focus has to be about the University of Florida, competing each pitch and trying to put a good game together so we can stay here.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal