February 5, 2013 12:24:59 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Butch Thompson finally got the encouraging signs he was looking for in sophomore right-handed pitcher Brandon Woodruff this weekend.
So much so the Mississippi State University pitching coach was essentially promising his high-profile starting pitcher would be making his preseason scrimmage debut tonight at Dudy Noble Field.
Thompson confirmed Sunday Woodruff 'will start Tuesday unless something different happens' after having his preseason opener being pushed back on two separate occasions.
Woodruff, who has felt elbow tenderness since the beginning of January, has begun a a long toss regime last week and threw this weekend off flat ground from 50 feet but was unable to start a bullpen session with Thompson on a mound. The MSU assistant said the impressive life his arm action had this weekend and his physical recovery are all reasons his scheduled Sunday scrim age start was pushed back to 4:30 p.m. today.
"It may be one inning but this is the first time this spring that I felt like he's ready to take the mound," Thompson said. "He wants to take the mound. Don't take Brandon Woodruff out of that group to have a special season just yet now."
Woodruff, a former 5th-round pick out of high school by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, is expected to compete for one of three weekend starter roles on the mound in the premier baseball league in America.
"I've said before that I want to play college baseball," Woodruff said this past July. "I want to get an education and have the college experience and that to me is worth more than signing a contract to begin a professional career."
The other possible selections for the trio of spots are senior right-hander Kendall Graveman, sophomore left-hander Jacob Lindgren, junior right-hander Evan Mitchell, sophomore right-hander Will Cox and sophomore right-hander Trevor Fitts.
Woodruff, a Wheeler native, will be monitored closely tonight as this is the first serious injury concern in his career. Thompson wasn't sure Sunday which pitcher would be facing Woodruff in the seventh split-squad scrimmage of the preseason.
"It may just be one inning but I'm looking forward to seeing how he'll react to his first time out there," Thompson said.
In his first ever Southeastern Conference start of the 2012 campaign in the opener of the league tournament, Woodruff (1-2) got the win over the University of Arkansas as the Wheeler native mix in a 92-93 miles-per-hour fastball with a devastating overhand curveball to get five strikeouts in five innings of work. Woodruff,, held the fifth-best offense in the league to just two hits through a 72-pitch outing with a 92-93 miles-per-hour fastball with a devastating overhand curveball.
"I'd say Brandon Woodruff is probably the biggest wild card on our pitching staff right now, because he is one of the few guys on our club right now who has dealt with some arm tenderness," MSU coach John Cohen said. "If he comes back strong, he's a great candidate as well."
The Bulldogs open the season Feb. 15 with 19 straight home games.