STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University opening night starting pitcher Ben Bracewell might have taken a giant step in his rehabilitation Saturday morning.
The sophomore right-hander, who has been out since March 2 with soreness in his pitching elbow, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session off flat ground approximately three hours before MSU’s 8-0 loss to the University of Arkansas at Dudy Noble Field. MSU coach John Cohen and pitching coach Butch Thompson watched Bracewell’s session in left field of Polk-Dement Stadium.
After the outing, which included fastballs mixed with changeups, Bracewell told The Dispatch he had no immediate discomfort in his throwing arm and was encouraged that his velocity was nearly identical to when he started the season.
“I felt good today, and everything seems to be heading in the right direction to be ready for game action soon,” Bracewell said. “Didn’t throw any breaking balls today because it was good to throw with full intensity and not worry about pain or discomfort anywhere in my arm.”
After the game, Cohen told The Dispatch he was encouraged by Bracewell’s outing, and that he will wait to see if Bracewell has any discomfort in his elbow in the next few days.
“He was really good today and if we don’t have any setbacks, he could be available for next weekend,” Cohen said. “Ben wants to get back out there, but we’re being careful. But Butch and I like what we see so far.”
MSU (16-8, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) will play Alcorn State University at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and a three-game series next weekend at Auburn University.
Bracewell said last week he has had very little soreness in his right elbow after doing long toss from 90 and 180 feet in the outfield. MRI scans two weeks ago showed no structural damage to his right elbow. Bracewell’s issue continues to be the pain he has in his arm days after he pitches.
“I really think it was an overcompensation deal where I hadn’t been out there in forever and just overthrew everything,” Bracewell said two weeks ago.
After returning this season from Tommy John surgery, Bracewell hasn’t surrendered an earned run in 10 1/3 innings, but he felt severe discomfort after a March 2 start against the University of Connecticut.
In his absence, junior right-hander Chris Stratton (5-0, 2.21), who also watched the end of Bracewell’s session, has taken over the role of Friday night starter. He has delivered quality starts against LSU and Arkansas, and has a 1.72 ERA in league play.
“I really don’t care (who starts) because you can’t keep a guy like Ben Bracewell out of our rotation because that guy has way too much talent and stuff,” Stratton said this week. “If the coaches think putting me back in the bullpen and starting Ben again helps us win games, I’ll take that every time.”