Arkansas Baseball: Pitching Staff Feeling the Strain


Fayetteville, Ark.- The Razorbacks not only dropped two important games to South Carolina last weekend, costing them an outside chance to win the SEC West, but may be short-handed come Thursday with their pitching rotation due to those efforts.

Arkansas Razorback manager Dave Van Horn is switching his weekend rotation around again, moving Ryne Stanek (6-3, 2.99 ERA) to the back of the rotation and promoting D.J. Baxendale (6-3, 3.65 ERA) back to staff ace, at least for the upcoming series against Auburn.

The move comes after Stanek injured his back in theSouth Carolinagame last Friday night. According to reports from Van Horn, Stanek strained muscles in his back causing a stiff back while pitching against the Gamecocks.

The injury could not come at a worse time for the Hogs. Arkansas plays their first and only Thursday night ESPN Game of the Week this week leaving fewer days of rest for the Hogs’ starting pitchers.

Baxendale will get the ball on Thursday followed by Randall Fant on Friday with Stanek closing the series if available on Saturday.

A semifinalist for the 2011 Golden Spikes Award, Baxendale is no stranger to being the staff ace for the Hogs and should be able to adjust to that role quickly.

Baxendale started the year with the moniker of staff ace taking the mound on Friday nights against Alabama, Mississippi State, and LSU. After a couple of bad outings Van Horn moved D.J. to the back of the rotation in favor of Stanek.

The possible upcoming dilemma for Arkansas’ pitching staff starts with Baxendale’s arm. Against USC on Sunday, Baxendale threw 110 pitches in seven innings of work, his highest pitch count of the 2012 season. Thursday he will face an explosive Auburn lineup that is tops in the SEC with a team batting average of .314 on three full days of rest as compared to his usual six days.

The Razorbacks’ deep bullpen is starting to feel the strain of the season as well, another untimely situation for the Hogs. Sophomore starter/middle relief pitcher Nolan Sanburn (3-1, 2.43 ERA in 29.2 innings) has a sore shoulder. Junior reliever Cade Lynch (2-1, 2.25 ERA, 2 saves in 40 innings) has arm fatigue which hopefully does not signal a dead arm. If so, Lynch could be out until the SEC Tournament May 22-27 or until the NCAA Regionals June 1-4 if he returns at all.

Both Lynch and Sanburn are relied upon heavily by Van Horn.

Another possible live arm has been taken off the shelf for the Hogs. Freshman pitcher Mark Reyes (1-0, 3.99 ERA, in one career start) is having elbow surgery at the end of this week. Arkansas expects Reyes to have a full recovery and be able to participate within a year’s time.

The weary arms of the Razorback pitchers have come after throwing 442.0 innings, second most in the SEC behind Florida 443.

Even the second half of the battery has been slowed by nagging injuries. Starting catcher Jake Wise missed a start on Sunday because of bruised ribs only to see his backup John Clay Reeves get injured in his absence. Reeves was hit in the arm by a USC bat.

Wise started on Sunday but was ejected for arguing a called third strike. The loss of Reeves forced relief pitcher Colby Suggs to catch part of the seventh before starting shortstop Tim Carver finished the game behind the plate.

The strength of the Arkansas baseball team throughout the 2012 season has been the depth of their pitching staff. Brandon Moore and Barrett Astin have been used interchangeably from the pen to the role of Saturday starters. With two SEC series remaining the Hogs will need quality starts in each game particularly their opening series to keep the bullpen fresh for the following two games.

Baxendale has the talent and ability to mix up Auburn on Thursday. The big question is will his arm feel the strain of throwing just three days after tossing 110 pitches against the No. 3 team in the nation?

Arkansas Razorback Pitching Staff Notes

The Hogs team ERA jumped from a nationally fourth best 2.61 on Friday to 2.93, now third best in the SEC behind Mississippi State (2.82) and Florida (2.92).

Ryne Stanek’s ERA jumped from 2.52 entering the USC game to 2.99 afterwards.

Arkansas is ranked fourth in the SEC in strikeouts thrown, 409, but are first in getting strike three called with the batter looking- 147. LSU is second with 138.

The Razorback staff has the second fewest hits allowed in the SEC (368) behind USC’s 354.

The Hogs have allowed the second least amount of runs in the SEC, 167, behind Florida’s 158.

Arkansas has committed the fewest total balks in the SEC- 1.

The Razorbacks have given up the second lowest total of homeruns to the opposition in the SEC, 17, to MSU’s 10.