April 10, 2014 10:10:23 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- The No. 17 Mississippi State baseball team is preparing for another weekend without sophomore right-hander Preston Brown.
Sources close to the program confirmed to The Dispatch on Wednesday that Brown hasn't thrown since suffering shoulder discomfort last week in his bullpen session. That shoulder injury kept the third-year sophomore from pitching last weekend at LSU and likely will keep him off the active roster this weekend when MSU (20-13, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) plays host to No. 19 Ole Miss. Game 1 of the three-game SEC weekend series will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Dudy Noble Field.
MSU coaches hope Brown, who has been slow to recover after starts this season, will be able to begin a throwing program this weekend. Once Brown starts throwing in the bullpen under the supervision of MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson, the coaches will be able to determine a timetable for his return.
MSU coach John Cohen is expected to release his team's pitching rotation today. Junior left-hander Ross Mitchell likely will get his first career Friday night start against Chris Ellis. Mitchell (5-2, 1.54 ERA) will be the fourth Friday night starter MSU has used in the first seven weekends of league play. Ellis (4-0, 1.88) has allowed 10 earned runs in four league starts. SEC opponents are hitting .337 against him. Ellis allowed six earned runs on seven hits in two innings, but he earned a no decision in a 7-6 victory against Alabama last weekend.
Mitchell has allowed more than two earned runs in one of his 68 career appearances. That stretch includes two complete game victories in SEC play this season. In his last start at LSU, Mitchell took the loss despite allowing one earned run in six innings (85 pitches).
If Mitchell takes the mound Friday, MSU is expected to go with junior Trevor Fitts on Saturday. The starter for Sunday will be determined. Fitts started on four days rest in Game 1 at LSU and lasted 34 pitches after giving up two runs in two innings. MSU has a number of options for Sunday, including Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff, who was expected to be one of the team's weekend starting pitchers at the beginning of the season, has had four straight encouraging relief outings, including a 50-pitch effort Tuesday in a 4-3 victory against Southern Mississippi at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
"Brandon was sensational," Cohen said. "He really came up big for us. He had control of all of his pitchers and kept the batters off stride."
Opponents are hitting .108 (4-for-37) off him in those four appearances after he saw his ERA skyrocket to 7.43 as a starting pitcher in March. Woodruff said last week he felt he needed the time to fix a problem with his mechanics.
"I wasn't finishing when my front side tight because when it would fly out, the ball would tend to sail, and that's why I was missing so badly," Woodruff said. "I wasn't tipping pitches, but I needed to keep everything balanced and compact in my motion."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.