February 19, 2013 2:39:08 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State University baseball coaching staff has one promise for sophomore starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff - he'll get more mound time than last week.
The right-hander from Wheeler, who many had projected as a weekend rotation option before the start of spring preseason practices, will get to go longer than last week when he makes his 2013 debut today for a 4 p.m. contest against Grambling State University at Dudy Noble Field.
"I didn't want to come off the mound, at all (in practice)," Woodruff said. "I wanted to finish the second inning. I understand they had me on a pitch count but I promise you that I did not want to come off at all I was over there in the dugout kind of shaking a little bit, man I want to finish this inning so bad."
In a preseason split-squad scrimmage, Woodruff was held to a pitch count of 40 on Feb. 12 where he gave up one earned run but showed the velocity and movement MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson had been looking for.
"He wants to pitch and he loves being out there on that mound," Thompson said. "That kind of competitiveness shows me more than anything else he could've done. He'll be a factor for us."
Woodruff, who has felt elbow tenderness since the beginning of January, began a long toss regime early this month, threw this weekend off flat ground from 50 feet and then threw two bullpen sessions with Thompson before getting a preseason scrimmage start.
"(Woodruff) not back to being fully healthy yet but that's what this first month is for," MSU catcher Nick Ammirati said. "He'll be a major factor for us come SEC time, there's no doubt about that."
Woodruff, a former 5th-round pick by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 MLB Draft, told The Dispatch throughout the process he turned down over $500,00 in signing bonus money to attend MSU.
Grambling State (0-3) is coming off a weekend where they were swept at Northwestern State University, who is being coached by former MSU assistant Lane Burroughs.
Fourteen Bulldog pitchers combined for a remarkable 0.75 staff earned run average last week as MSU out-scored visiting Portland 31-3 during a four-game series sweep. Woodruff was the only pitcher on the active roster that failed to see the mound in the opening weekend allowing for the possibility for numerous members of the seven underclassmen arms to be used in relief after Woodruff tonight.
"We're really excited about seeing Woody again and how that will work because his last two times out have been special and we'd love to get him between 60 to 80 pitches," MSU coach John Cohen said.