March 13, 2014 3:49:36 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State announced its starting rotation for the opening Southeastern Conference series at Georgia and it highlighted a decision the Bulldogs coaching staff has made.
Right-handed pitchers Ben Bracewell and Trevor Fitts will take the baseball in the first games of the series and the notable omission from the rotation is junior Brandon Woodruff.
"My approach is different now because I'm not trying to do too much because I don't need to be going out there thinking about 15 strikeouts or throwing 93-94 miles per hour," Bracewell said. "I need to spin the baseball, keep it moving and get their bats out front."
The highly acclaimed starter, who turned down over $500,000 to reject a fifth round pick by the Texas Rangers out of Wheeler High School, has once again struggled to get a positive early start to the season and MSU pitching coach went with a fifth-year senior in Bracewell (2-1, 1.74 ERA) to get MSU started in SEC play.
In a smaller ballpark, similar to one Cohen coached in at Kentucky, MSU is valuing ground ball arsenal with its starting pitchers and both right-handed starters listed have that mentality.
"We felt like the evaluation over the first two months of the season that Benny deserved that opportunity," MSU coach John Cohen said. "That's why we were playing four-game weekend. I feel very comfortable with Ben."
Bracewell, a fifth-year senior that dealt with several injuries in his college career but was a highly touted high school prospect out of Birmingham, Ala., said Thursday he takes pride in the competition of facing the league's best arms on Friday night.
"I'm thinking about Beede over at Vandy and Nola at LSU are guys that throwing extremely well right now," Bracewell said. "Fun would be the word I would use. In reality nobody is giving you anything on that deal. Everybody assumes their going to win so it allows you to sneak up and do something nobody thought you could do."
Short of his last outing in Arizona, Fitts (2-0, 3.92) has been the consistent element that No. 24 MSU (13-7) has needed to replace the innings eater in the Saturday role they lost when Kendall Graveman graduated.
First-year Georgia coach Scott Stricklin has announced his weekend rotation as follows:
Friday - So. LHP Ryan Lawlor (1-1, 6.61 ERA)
Saturday - Fr. RHP Robert Tyler (0.93 ERA)
Sunday - Sr. LHP Patrick Boling (2-1, 2.57 ERA)
Cohen suggested Thursday it would really depend on how the weekend results go before they determine a Sunday starter. Specifically it will depend on how much MSU has used its valuable bullpen before they designate a pitcher for the finale. Freshmen right-handers Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton are also candidates to get the starting nod at Georgia on Sunday.
"If a Jonathan Holder doesn't pitch yet, he could be a long guy on that day. You've got lefty options out of the pen in Lindgren and Ross Mitchell as well," Cohen said. "We have to account for our bullpen because that's our identity along with defense."
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.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT