By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco knows he’s looking for someone to step in and replace a dependable glove in Andrew Mistone.
Regardless of what fans may have thought at Saturday’s scrimmage, however, Sikes Orvis is not the answer.
The junior first baseman-designated hitter made held his own in his second start at the other corner, but his presence there was a product of factors other than range and nimble footwork.
“That’ll show you the other side of it with how many injuries we’ve had,” Bianco said. “We started the fall four weeks ago, and I remember sitting in staff meetings, and we remarked about how much depth we had and how many players we had at each position. How quickly that goes away.”
Will Jamison, Preston Overbey, Will Allen are among the veterans not participating as the Rebels near the end of fall practice.
Tupelo infielder John Gatlin, whose 2013 season was cut short with shoulder and foot injuries, remains on the mend.
Players who are not in workouts physically remain involved when bunt defense, pick-off moves and the like are implemented.
“You’re just disappointed for those kids. They want to show what they can do. They want the reps, and we want to see them. For the most part we’ve gotten everything in, what we wanted,” Bianco said.
All injured players are expected back before practice begins in January except for sophomore pitcher Brady Bramlett (Tommy John surgery) and freshman pitcher Ryan Leone.
The silver lining of the injuries is the number of reps and time on the field for newcomers in a signing class ranked No. 8 by Baseball America last week. That puts the Rebels with Baseball America’s No. 3 class in the SEC behind Florida and South Carolina.
The fall is about introducing those guys to the program more than about position battles, Bianco said.
“You can’t help but evaluate and you’re trying to define some roles for guys on the mound and in the field, but at the end of the day, we have to take this time to make sure everybody’s on the same page on the team defensive stuff and the team offensive stuff.”
When January comes, the Rebels will be looking to fill spots and second base, catcher and one in the outfield as well as third base.
“We’re going to need one of the guys to run out there in the outfield. On the mound, some of those young guys are going to have to pitch, certainly another infielder at second or third will have substantial playing time,” Bianco said. “There will be several roles for these freshmen.”