By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It is what it is,” has become quite a popular cliché through the years.
I’ve heard from several coaches, one of them Mike Bianco at Ole Miss.
That saying takes on an unfortunate twist as Bianco and the Rebels face a crucial stretch over the final six games of the SEC regular season.
Regarding the Rebels’ bullpen, “It is what it wasn’t.”
Earlier this season relief pitchers Aaron Greenwood and Tanner Bailey turned in some big innings that helped the Rebels hold on to leads or hold close with a chance to win.
Lately, Greenwood’s struggles and the absence of someone to step into that void have changed the complexion of things.
If Ole Miss is going to finish strong this season it’s going to be with pitching. Offense is not its trademark.
Too often the bullpen has been called on to hold one-run leads. It’s their job to do that, but life is easier with a little more breathing room. Help a brother out.
Earlier this season, Greenwood had a streak of 13 scoreless innings, all within the SEC. He doesn’t wow you with velocity or a big breaking ball.
The secret of his success is location, not only throwing strikes but pin-pointing them within the zone. When he can’t do that – and recently he hasn’t – he’s less effective.
Bailey couldn’t hold the lead at Auburn on Sunday, his second appearance of the weekend. He gave up two hits and two runs in the seventh – the second run was his, though it scored with Brett Huber on the mound – as the Tigers rallied to win 5-4.
Huber, dealing with back spasms, was roughed up on Sunday.
Prior to the Sunday seventh, Bailey had allowed just one run in his previous eight appearances, though his throwing error against Kentucky allowed the go-ahead run to score in Game 3.
Chris Ellis can wow you at times. Freshman Jacob Waguespack and sophomore Hawtin Buchanan, both coming back from tendinitis, have had successful non-conference outings.
Buchanan has allowed just one hit and no runs over four short appearances.
Roles may change
Larger roles were planned for he and Waguespack, and they could become weekend options.
There’s a greater chance of fixing the bullpen than looking down the bench and finding two big hitters that you didn’t know where there.
Greenwood has done it. It’s a much stronger staff if he can do it again.
Waguespack and Buchanan provide interesting possibilities.
The bottom line is, Ole Miss still has work to do on its NCAA resumé and faces six tough games ahead, at home with rival Mississippi State then at LSU.
The Rebels need their bullpen clicking to get into postseason.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.