OMAHA, Neb. — The Mississippi State University baseball coaches are trying to downplay injury concerns about left-handed pitcher Luis Pollorena.
The senior, who the Texas Rangers selected in the 23rd round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft earlier this month, hasn’t seen action since a June 1 start against the University of South Alabama in the NCAA Starkville Regional.
MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson confirmed after a Wednesday morning practice session at Creighton University that Pollorena (6-3, 4.32 ERA) is suffering from a
severe strain “in the muscle on the lateral side of his pitching arm between the shoulder and the elbow.”
“I would never throw Luis under the bus and pitch him if he didn’t feel 100 percent,” Thompson said. “Today was a much better day in terms of seeing his range of motion because we’re going to need an athletic left-hander for any of the two clubs we’re going to see Friday.”
While MSU (50-18) hasn’t named a starter for its game against Oregon State University at 2 p.m. Friday (ESPN), all signs point to Pollorena getting the start or being one of the first arms out of the bullpen if the training staff agrees the 5-foot-9 southpaw is healthy. OSU (52-12), which lost to MSU 5-4 on Saturday, eliminated Indiana University 1-0 on Wednesday night.
“I really think there’s nothing serious wrong with me because I really believe I just slept on my side wrong and woke up more sore than I’d been in a while,” Pollorena said. “My bullpen sessions have been great, and like anybody else, I’m chomping at the bit to get on the mound in the College World Series. This is why I came to Mississippi State.”
Pollorena, who hasn’t earned a victory since April 12 at Texas A&M University, has made 12 starts this season. Eight have been in two relatively big ballparks (Dudy Noble Field and Trustmark Park in Pearl), which could work to the advantage of a fly-ball pitcher. Pollorena also has had quality starts at Vanderbilt University and at the University of Mississippi.
“TD Ameritrade Park is where fly balls go to die, so I really think my style and how I go about getting hitters to make soft contact that our outfielders can run down really sets up nicely for me,” Pollorena said.
MSU coaches have been careful with Pollorena since he suffered the discomfort in his pitching arm. Despite Pollorena’s long layoff, MSU coach John Cohen and Thompson have said senior right-hander Kendall Graveman is the only guaranteed starter in their postseason plan.
“(Luis) threw a little bit yesterday, and I think he could be ready for the weekend,” Cohen said. “It’s kind of a real shame for him because he’s been healthy all year. Knowing the heart of that kid, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was available this weekend.”
Pollorena is one of five MSU pitchers (Ben Bracewell, Will Cox, Myles Gentry, and Jacob Lindgren) with double-digit appearances who hasn’t pitched in the College World Series.
“I think it’s pretty clear our plan so far has been Kendall and then we’ll go with the matchup every day,” Thompson said. “There’s not this three- or four-day gap coming after this weekend. You’re right into it, and that set-up (means) you have to go deeper into your pitching staff. One of these guys that hasn’t pitched in this tournament and hasn’t been part of our regular rotation will determine if we win this whole thing. I just don’t know who that person will be. You never do.”
Renfroe, Frazier, and Holder earn national honors
Three MSU players earned national honors Wednesday from the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe picked up another All-America honor and joined two teammates on the 2013 American Baseball Coaches Association All-South Region team.
Renfroe was a first-team selection on the 2013 Rawlings/ABCA NCAA Division I All-America team and the ABCA All-South Region team. Junior shortstop Adam Frazier and sophomore relief pitcher Jonathan Holder were second-team ABCA All-Region selections.
Renfroe, a consensus All-American in 2013 and winner of the 2013 C Spire Ferriss Trophy, which goes to the best college baseball player in the state of Mississippi, is hitting .357 entering MSU’s third game in the College World Series.
Frazier, who shares the NCAA lead with a school-record 105 hits, leads the Bulldogs with a .360 batting average and 61 runs scored.
Holder notched his 19th and 20th saves in MSU’s first two NCAA College World Series games. Holder, who is fourth in the nation in saves, has saves in all four of his NCAA tournament appearances, and is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in postseason play. He has 86 strikeouts in 50 innings (32 games).