Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Weekend Rotation Set for Opening Series

The makeup of the Ole Miss pitching staff from the start of last season to the final game against Miami in the Super Regional was a work in progress to say the least. At this time one year ago, the Ole Miss coaches were faced with the difficult task of replacing what was probably the most talented group of pitchers in program history.The top eight pitchers from the 2005 squad - names like Stephon Head, Anthony Cupps, Mark Holiman and Matt Maloney - had moved on to careers in the major leagues, and head coach Mike Bianco, along with pitching coach Kyle Bunn, were dealing with the realization of possibly starting two true freshmen in the weekend rotation. Seven different pitchers drew a weekend start at one time or another in 2006 while the coaching staff struggled to piece together a constant rotation.The emergence of Will Kline as the go-to guy after the Mayor's Trophy game, and the play of freshmen Brett Bukvich and Lance Lynn, eventually solidified the pitching staff as a strength of the team, but it was not until late in the season that the rotation took shape.Fast forward to 2007 and the pitching staff is now being touted as the backbone of the team heading into opening weekend."Last year there was a bunch of uncertainty on the staff," Kline said. "There were question marks everywhere as far as who was going to throw and this year it's more laid out and written on paper. Coming back with all these guys gives us confidence."The weekend rotation appears to be set prior to the season's first game with Kline (5-2, 3.71 ERA) as the team's ace and Friday-night pitcher, Bukvich (6-6, 4.50) as the Saturday starter and Lynn (7-3, 4.96) as the man to close things out on Sundays. Sophomore Jesse Simpson (1-0, 2.48) returns as the leading candidate to again be a mid-week starter but could also challenge for a spot in the weekend rotation. Several other names could also challenge the incumbents if any of the four struggles early in the season. Craig Rodriguez (5-3, 5.53) spent a large portion of 2006 as the Rebels' Friday-night starter and could be used in either a long-term relief role, or possibly as a midweek starter.

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