April 3, 2014 1:13:05 PM
STARKVILLE -- Whether it's because of Preston Brown's injury for Mississippi State, LSU's concern over the weather or just plain gamesmanship: more changes have come to this weekend's pitching rotation.
Let's run down how MSU coach John Cohen and LSU coach Paul Mainieri have shuffled their pitchers back and forth for the weekend.
MSU redshirt sophomore Preston Brown told his pitching coach Butch Thompson that he had right shoulder soreness during his bullpen session earlier this week. Due to this soreness, Brown's bullpen was stopped and the right-hander's health will be reevaluated Saturday as No. 9 MSU (20-10, 6-3) to possibly make the Sunday start at Alex Box Stadium.
"He threw a bullpen earlier in the week and had a little bit of a shoulder issue so we're going to have to adjust to that," MSU head coach John Cohen said.
It is unclear if Brown's soreness will allow him to get ready for the off day routine of a Sunday start or be a longterm issue especially after three pitchers (Paul Young, John Marc Shelly and Will Cox) have come out of spring camp and were quickly forced into season ending surgeries.
Junior left-hander Ross Mitchell (5-1, 1.55 ERA) is now likely to start the Friday night game against LSU right-handed ace Aaron Nola (5-1, 0.55). Mitchell has thrown a quality start in each of his Southeastern Conference outings since being put in the rotation in the first league weekend on Saturday at Georgia.
"Ross really wants to pitch Friday night after talking with him (Wednesday) but we'll see how he feels Friday," Cohen said. "Whenever you're moving guys around, you're going to be in the position of trying to find out what's best for that young man and how he feels."
Nola was originally scheduled to pitch Saturday in order to have the full six days of rest in between starts as last weekend's LSU-Florida series started with a Saturday doubleheader. However, Mainieri has decided as of late Thursday night to move him back into the Friday night role because the Tigers coach has made it clear he'd like to match up Nola against Mitchell.
"After the game (Wednesday against McNeese State), I went in and had an email from (sports information director) Bill (Franques) announcing Mississippi State's rotation, and their normal rotation they had their No. 1 guy going on Saturday, Ross Mitchell. So I liked the matchup. I wanted to match Nola up against Mitchell," Mainieri said via the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate "After I sent the rotation to Bill, Mississippi State changed the rotation. Now Mitchell's throwing on Friday night. It's OK. They're saying that their typical Friday night starter has some shoulder problems, Brown."
Nola was named Midseason National Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game after he has struck out 61 batters compared to just nine walks. Opponents are hitting him at just a .151 clip as its been his command on his two secondary pitches that have left him nearly untouchable in his seven starts.
"He's truly good as a strike thrower with really good stuff and he'll be a great draft pick," Cohen said. "Somebody has to get that HBP or walk so somebody will have to make a mistake to beat Nola."
The Saturday pitching matchup appears to be MSU junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (2-1, 3.09) against LSU freshman Jared Poche' (5-2, 2.61) as the 2013 Louisiana Mr. Baseball and Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year has been dominate in his first seven starts in college baseball. With severe weather scheduled to move into Baton Rouge, the result could be a Saturday doubleheader situation.
It now appears both No. 9 MSU and LSU will have a 'TBA' in the Game 3 spot in their rotation. Both programs have had seven different pitchers make a start for them in the 2014 season and LSU (21-8-1, 3-5-1) is expected to decide between Cody Glenn, Kurt McCune, Zac Person and Kyle Bouman for the Sunday start in Baton Rouge.
In other MSU injury news, Cohen said senior outfielder C.T. Bradford is moving better than he was last week but the Bulldogs coach wouldn't comment on whether Bradford would be in the lineup this weekend. Derrick Armstrong has made 12 starts in centerfield and has a .328/389/.344 BA/OBP/SLUG splits this season.
"We're going to have to get him running around out there and see how that (hip) is reacting," Cohen said. "Is he going to play (Friday) night, you just don't know. Hopefully we can have him on the field at some point this weekend."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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