January 29, 2013 10:06:43 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Two candidates for the Mississippi State University baseball team's weekend rotation will make their debuts at 4:30 p.m. today at Dudy Noble Field.
Senior right-hander Kendall Graveman and sophomore right-hander Brandon Woodruff will take to the mound in a intra-squad scrimmage. Their goal is to remove any injury concerns about their ability to contribute.
Graveman led MSU with 16 starts in 2012 while recording 59 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings. The Bulldogs' regular Saturday starter showcased the much-needed power sink in his first two bullpen sessions with MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson. The senior from Alexander City, Ala., is coming off a sports hernia surgery last summer. The injury hindered his ability to be effective late last season.
"Kendall is so far ahead of schedule, and these last couple of pens have been outstanding," MSU coach John Cohen said Sunday. "I don't think I've seen him throw the way he did in those last two outings."
Graveman is 11-8 with one save and a 4.03 ERA in 49 appearances (29 starts). He has 118 strikeouts in 96 1/3 innings.
Woodruff, a former fifth-round pick by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft, is expected to compete for the Friday night starter. Cohen said the Wheeler native experienced "tenderness" in his throwing elbow last weekend and will be monitored tonight to make surer he doesn't suffer any more irritation.
In his first Southeastern Conference start in the opener of the league tournament last season, Woodruff (1-2) went five innings to get the victory against the University of Arkansas. He mixed a 92-93 mph fastball with a devastating overhand curveball to get five strikeouts. Woodruff held the fifth-best offense in the league to two hits in a 72-pitch outing.
"Brandon's one of those guys that could just emerge as maybe one of those 80-, 90-, 100-inning guys as a starter if he gets on a roll," Cohen said.
Healthier, lighter Rea recovering well from shoulder surgery
Sophomore Wes Rea is a different man for two reasons: He's healthier and lighter.
Rea's diet, which he started at the end of the 2012 season, produced instant results as the MSU baseball program entered its fall season. The power-hitting corner infielder from Gulfport lost more than 20 pounds and weighed in at 272 pounds before the first fall scrimmage. He is under his listed weight of 272 entering his redshirt sophomore season.
"It was easier than I thought it was to lose the weight, and now I feel lighter on my feet and have much more energy now that I've got more fit," Rea said in October.
Rea hit .249 with a team-leading five home runs and 41 RBIs in his first college season (63 starts) at first base. The 6-foot-5 prospect was forced to play through a debilitating shoulder injury that required a cortisone shot in May.
A couple weeks before the season ended with a 3-2 loss to Samford University in the NCAA Regional at Florida State University, MSU team doctors used an MRI scan to discover Rea had a muscle cyst in his shoulder that caused him to feel pain all the way down his right arm.
After having the cyst removed from his shoulder this summer, Rea was named co-captain of the team. The third-year sophomore first baseman had two hits and an RBI Saturday in a scrimmage. He also hit a long home run Sunday in batting practice.
"We think he's going to have a big year and (will be) somebody that will provide more pop in the middle of our order, which will be huge for our offense," Cohen said.