OXFORD – All-American pitcher Scott Bittle will be unavailable for Ole Miss again this week and will not make the trip to Arkansas, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.
Bittle’s scheduled soft toss on Tuesday afternoon was better than last week, but he remains less than 100 percent and has been sidelined with arm soreness for the last two SEC weekends.
The final regular season SEC series begin Thursday. Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss are all within a game of league-leading LSU in the SEC overall standings.
“We’re not going to bring him. He threw the best he’s thrown in a long time in the long toss. He said he had no pain, but he’s still stiff,” Bianco said. “When he got on the mound he had trouble getting loose. He seems so close we don’t want to force it by him not being 100 percent. We’ll wait another week.”
The Rebels’ pitching rotation for the Arkansas series will be left-hander Drew Pomeranz, left-hander Brett Bukvich and right-hander Phillip Irwin.
Bittle, a senior right-hander from Texarkana, Texas, complained of soreness in his right bicep just before his scheduled start at Auburn on May 3.
He was a second-round MLB draft pick of the Yankees last June, but talks stalled after the club’s interpretation of an MRI of Bittle’s shoulder.
An MRI of Bittle’s shoulder last Monday showed no damage, and two doctors – team physician Dr. Ed Field and Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham – approved competition for Bittle from the standpoint of the shoulder.
Bittle wasn’t able to get loose in a workout last Friday, and Bianco left him off the 25-man roster for the weekend series against Mississippi State.
Bittle is 5-2 with three saves and a 2.17 earned run average, 68 strikeouts and 22 walks in 45 2/3 innings.
He solidified the third spot in the SEC rotation, a problem for the Rebels for the first two weekends of conference play.
As an SEC starter Bittle is 4-0 with two no-decisions, a 1.29 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .156. He has posted wins over South Carolina, at No. 20 Florida, No. 1 Georgia and threw a complete-game shutout of Kentucky in which he fanned a career-high 13 and walked none.
“He’s getting treatment and doing the excorcises every single day. Some things he couldn’t do last week he could do this week,” Bianco said. “He wants to go, but when you’re limited to 25 players it’s not worth the risk to run him out there when he’s less than 100 percent.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal