Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Starters should be ready for opening day
Tyler Spoon, Arkansas sophomore, talks with the press Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 at the University of Arkansas baseball media day at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE A quartet of projected starters injured during the off-season should be ready for Arkansas' season opener next Friday.
Outfielders Tyler Spoon, Joe Serrano and Andrew Benintendi, and catcher Jake Wise are all expected to play next weekend, Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said Friday. The four players have been limited at times during practice this preseason with injuries.
Spoon and Wise each underwent hernia surgeries late last year, and Wise also had a Tommy John surgery last summer to repair a torn ligament in his throwing elbow.
"Spoon is fine," Van Horn said. "He had a good week of sprinting, moving left and right. He should be 100 percent by next week.
"Wise had the arm surgery and is OK. He's in good shape but we have to take care of it. When you try to run on him he'll be able to throw. The issue is the hernia surgery. He can run now but he was just able to run with us in practice this last week. He's not 100 percent yet running-wise because of that. Will he be able to run next Friday? I think so."
Van Horn said redshirt freshman Blake Baxendale would likely get some playing time at catcher early in the season while Wise works himself back into playing shape. Wise has been the team's starting catcher the last two years and Van Horn called him one of the best defensive players in the country.
Serrano has been battling both a pulled groin and arm injury, but Van Horn said both injuries were close to healing. Benintendi, a freshman, suffered a broken bone in his hand that was discovered prior to Christmas and required surgery.
"It bothered him when he first got back," Van Horn said. "He hasn't swung the bat as well as he did in the fall, but I can see the bat speed coming back. The injury was one you get from swinging the bat."
Arkansas opens the season next Friday with the first of a three-game series against Appalachian State at Baum Stadium.