MSU sophomore Ben Bracewell to get the opening day start Friday Photo by: Courtesy of Mississippi State athletics/Bill Simmonds
February 12, 2012 4:46:00 PM
STARKVILLE - The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog has learned Ben Bracewell's comeback from labrum surgery will be completed with him getting the opening day pitching start Friday night.
Several members of the MSU program have confirmed the redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher will be the first to take the mound in the 2012 season when the Bulldogs open up with the first of a three-game series against Washington State.
"It's just really exciting for me because I couldn't be more thankful to have what I guess is a second chance to in a way redo everything," Bracewell said after practice Sunday. "I've been waiting for this moment forever and I'll be pretty juiced on Friday I know that."
MSU head coach John Cohen is expected to make the starting pitcher announcement official early this coming week. First pitch of Friday night's contest against the Cougars is set for 6 p.m.
"It's definitely an honor for sure to be considered a weekend guy right now because we have so many good arms on this team," Bracewell said. "It's a privilege that I'm not going to take for granted."
Bracewell had surgery in the summer before last season to correct a serious labrum injury in his pitching shoulder and the rehabilitation from the procedure left him off last year's active roster. The injury involved damage to the front part near the biceps tendon but unlike most cases in this injury, the right shoulder as a whole has remained strong physically.
"I feel like I'm back to where I was before the surgery, and (I can) probably say I'm better now because even while just watching other guys I've learned how to pitch," Bracewell said in October.
In the intra-squad scrimmage Friday night, Bracewell struck out five batters in five innings while giving up just one win in what the MSU coaching staff considered a dress rehearsal for opening day this coming week.
"I had a little bit of a problem with efficiency through my first two innings and threw 40 pitches in there but settled down quickly after that," Bracewell said. "I'm getting much better at making adjustments as the game goes along."
The plan, according to a Friday night conversation with MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson, is for two MSU starting pitchers to be paired together in a game for the first weekend since they'll be on a pitch count of about 70-80 pitches.
The concern for the MSU coaching staff is the soreness that Bracewell still feels in his arm one or two days after a start or long bullpen session.
"I'm still sore after starts because I've never thrown this many pitches since high school and I try to beat my record every week with that since I've gotten here and this coming week will be no different," Bracewell said. "When I'm on the mound it's not an issue and I don't think about it at all."
Bracewell is expected to be paired with junior right-hander Kendall Graveman, who started on the mound in the scrimmage game Sunday, on opening day with the ideal situation they can both get through 7-8 innings of work. The next day plan will be for senior left-hander Nick Routt to make his first start of the season to likely be followed out of the bullpen by junior right-hander Chris Stratton.
Two years ago as a freshman Bracewell appeared in 17 games as a reliever and the MSU closer posting an 0-2 record and a 5.50 earned run average while leading the Bulldogs with four of the staff's seven saves that season.
Before arriving on the MSU campus, Bracewell was considered one of the best high school power arms in state of Alabama just three years ago.
"Every time Ben Bracewell goes out there it's like a five-star signee going out there because I think he's going to be outstanding," MSU coach John Cohen said Monday.
Bracewell came to MSU after posting a 15-0 record with a 0.47 earned run average while holding opposing hitters to a .108 batting average in his final season of high school. The right-handed power pitcher piled up 156 strikeouts in 90 innings while, helping lead Briarwood
Christian Lions to a runner-up finish in the Class 5A state playoffs.
"I feel like I'm back to where I was before the surgery and probably say I'm better now because even while just watching other guys I've learned how to pitch," Bracewell said.
During that postseason run, Bracewell got the win in six of Briarwood's nine playoff games, posting a remarkable .019 ERA mark in postseason play.
During the 2012 fall practice period, Bracewell is slated to being back as a starting pitcher. A role where he hasn't lost a game he's started on the mound since his junior year of high
school and immediately is throwing his fastball in the 90-94 mile-per-hour range with a plus curveball and a developing changeup that he's working with Thompson to properly refine.
"He's unbelievably competitive and controls the running game," Cohen said. "He might have the best command of any starter we have. I've seen kids like Ben make huge strides sit there and have to wait their turn. You don't take anything for granted and you value everything so much that I think he will be incredibly valuable to us.If he's at his best and healthy yeah it'd be hard for me not to imagine he's not one of our weekend guys."
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.