Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said on Monday that he will be shaking up his weekend rotation this weekend against Arkansas. What he did not say is how he will go about doing that, wanting to get past in-state rival Southern Miss on Tuesday night first.
There is clearly a problem in Ole Miss’ weekend rotation. The Rebels have yet to have a starter go six innings in SEC play, and seven of their last eight games haven’t had a starter reach the fifth inning. It is pretty clear that it is time for a change. Brady Bramlett’s numbers have dipped from a year ago, Chad Smith has been anything but consistent on Saturdays with a 5.74 ERA and Sean Johnson has been shaky of late. Not to mention, Johnson did not start in Ole Miss’ second SEC series to rest his arm due to deteriorating velocity. It’s been a struggle for a team that has not had the offense to make up for its inability to generate quality starts.
The good news is, unlike a year ago, Bianco has a myriad of options.
Wyatt Short is one of the best closers in the SEC. He made an early appearance out of the bullpen in game three against South Carolina and pitched 5.2 innings without allowing an earned run. Short made it clear that he is an option if needed.
“I am here to do whatever the team needs me to do,” Short said after the South Carolina game. “If he wants me to start, then I’ll start. If he wants me to stay in the back of the bullpen, then I’ll stay in the back of the bullpen. It’s all up to Coach B.”
The junior left-hander has not started a game since high school, but made it clear the added workload would not be an issue.
“I can definitely go. I would be more than happy if he needs me to,” he said. “I feel like my arm can definitely handle it. They’ve got me prepared here for sure.”
Short also noted that day that his mindset changed, and he pitched more towards contact because he knew he had to go longer. Bianco, however seemed hesitant to do it at the time, but kept the possibility open.
Andy Pagnozzi, who started the game against South Carolina, is also an option despite struggling mightily in three innings during his first SEC start.
The freshman right-hander pitched well in his two starts prior in the midweek and picked up a win at UAB, throwing six innings of two-hit baseball in that outing. Pagnozzi struggled against South Carolina in his first SEC start, but his track record out of the bullpen and in his two previous starts suggests that he is still an option to start.
Sophomore right-hander Will Stokes pitched 2.2 innings in Ole Miss’ Friday night 3-1 loss in Starkville and kept the Rebels in the game. Stokes replaced Sam Smith as the Sunday starter after the opening weekend of SEC play. A freshman at the time, Stokes showed glimpses of promise, going six innings at top-ranked Vanderbilt in a win, but struggled in the role as a whole and was eventually replaced by Scott Weathersby.
Throwing a true freshman into the rotation in the middle of SEC play is not ideal, and it’s fair to say Stokes had a pretty tough audition. He’s pitched well out of the pen this year, allowing just four runs on eight hits in 11 appearances with a 1.26 era, and one would have to think he will at least be on Bianco’s mind as an option.
Brady Feigl, and David Parkinson are also possibilities. Feigl pitched in Saturday’s game against Mississippi State and kept the Bulldogs at bay as he gave Ole Miss an opportunity to get back in the game. Parkinson has a team high of 12 appearances with a 1.45 ERA. Bianco has options with some arms both young and old. He does not know yet what he will do, but made it clear that something will be changed before this weekend.
Ole Miss plays Arkansas in a three game series beginning on Friday at Swayze Field. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.