March 14, 2013 11:07:53 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University first baseman Wes Rea is still in a lot of pain.
The pain in the sophomore's quad, an injury he suffered in the opening weekend that has kept him from starting a game since March 1, is so severe that it likely will keep him out of action this weekend when the No. 13 MSU (18-2) plays host to No. 7 LSU (16-1) in the first Southeastern Conference series of the season.
"Wes can't run full speed right now, (and) we feel like we can't play him," MSU coach John Cohen said in a teleconference Wednesday. "We feel like we're at our best if he's part of our lineup. It's possible he could play this weekend, but it's possible he could get going full speed again and re-injure the leg. We'll play that day by day and we'll see what happens."
Rea has been used late in games as a defensive replacement, but he has started only one game (March 1 vs. St. Joseph's University) since the opening weekend. He re-injured the quad running to second base in that game.
Rea, who has suffered shoulder injuries in each of his first two seasons at MSU, hoped to stay healthy to provide consistent production in the middle of the order with Hunter Renfroe, junior Daryl Norris, and senior designated hitter Trey Porter.
In his first swing this season, Rea homered in a 16-1 victory against the University of Portland in the first game of the year.
"The question in the offseason was offense, and for us to be hot in game one is just something we hope will carry over into the rest of the season," Rea said Feb. 15.
In Rea's absence, junior Alex Detz has started 17 games at first base, a position he played for the first time in the team's final spring scrimmages. Since getting the call to start in the middle of the lineup, Detz is hitting .423 with 17 walks and 16 RBIs. He also has only one error.
"I'm starting to feel pretty comfortable over there, but I think (Wes) will get back pretty soon, so that'll be good for everybody," Detz said Feb. 24. "I'll play wherever as long as I'm in the lineup."
Bradford relying too much on fly ball in slump
Junior center fielder C.T. Bradford realizes he has to make has to make different contact to get out of a frustrating slump.
The left-handed hitting Bradford, who provides half of what is one of the nation's most potent 1-2 combination at the top of an order with junior Adam Frazier, is 1-for-22 in his past six games. As a result, Bradford has been moved from No. 2 to No. 5 to No. 7 in the batting order in an attempt to get the 5-foot-7 athlete going.
Cohen said when Bradford is hitting may not be as critical as where he is hitting the baseball. Cohen said he and the MSU assistant coaches have been working with Bradford to get him to hit more ground balls instead of hitting fly balls that neutralize his speed advantage.
"I think it's really important because we couldn't envision being as good as we needed to be without C.T. Bradford," Cohen said. "He's very aware of that -- maybe too much. Maybe he's acutely aware of the fact he's hit too many fly balls, but I assure you nobody is working harder than C.T. to try and remedy that. I know he will come out of it because he's too smart, he's too good a player."
Bradford started the season hitting .415 and has seen his average drop to .307. He also has appeared in five games (two innings) and allowed one hit with three strikeouts.
MSU not expecting any changes to weekend rotation
Cohen said Wednesday his team's weekend pitching rotation against LSU will be the same as last weekend. Sophomore left-hander Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 0.96) will start Friday, junior right-hander Evan Mitchell (0-0, 2.30) will start Saturday, and senior Kendall Graveman (1-1, 2.61) will start Sunday.
MSU hasn't received a quality start in the past 11 games. It also is coming off a series loss to the University of Central Arkansas in which the inconsistencies of the starting pitchers proved critical in the final two losses. MSU pitchers hit 12 and walked 12 last weekend against a UCA team that entered the weekend as the nation's leading offense.
"I can handle a lot early on from our men, and it clearly didn't get off to the best start with Jacob going out after a 1/3 of an inning, but I wasn't prepared for the HBPs," MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson said. "I don't have an answer for that, and it's got to get taken care of quickly."
After Lindgren took a line drive off his left knee Friday, the results of a MRI scan Monday afternoon revealed a bone bruise but no structural damage or ligament damage. The Bulldogs' ace had to be carried off the field, but he told MSU coaches Sunday he felt he could run on his leg.
"He threw long toss and he threw a short pen this week," Cohen said Wednesday. "We feel like he's going to be available to us on Friday night. We'll check in with him today and tomorrow, but we're very optimistic he's going to be able to take the mound Friday."