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.
Arkansas names weekend starters
Killian suspended first two weeks
Arkansas reliever Jalen Beeks delivers a pitch Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, during the sixth inning of the Hogs' win over Western Illinois at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will start juniors Jalen Beeks and Chris Oliver, and freshman Alex Phillips on the mound this weekend when the Razorbacks open the season against Appalachian State.
Beeks will start the season opener Friday, followed by Oliver on Saturday and Phillips on Sunday. Oliver has the only starting experience between the three pitchers, having started once last year and the season before.
"The guys we've been considering starters are up to about 80, 85 pitches," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Tuesday. "Are they going to go that many? It depends. There's a hard 85 and an easy 85.
"If we could hit their pitch count, that would be perfect."
Beeks, a left-hander, and Oliver, a right-hander, were used primarily out of the bullpen last season. Phillips is a right-hander from Nacogdoches, Texas.
"Alex Phillips is another new guy who really throws four pitches for strikes," Van Horn said last week. "He reminds me of Charley Boyce, 86 max but four pitches for strikes. He has a very good changeup.”
Van Horn said either Beeks or Oliver will likely return to a reliever role by conference play, but both will be evaluated as starters early in the season.
"We want to give them a start early to give them an opportunity to either be in the starting rotation or get to the back of the bullpen," Van Horn said. "I don't know if we can keep both of them in the rotation, so we'll see how that evolves.
"They may end up be closers for us before it's all over with."
Sophomore right-hander Trey Killian and sophomore left-hander Colin Poche were considered potential starting candidates in the preseason. Poche will be available in the bullpen this weekend, but Killian will be withheld from the first six games of the year because of an "impermissible interaction" in high school, according to a press release from the Arkansas athletic department.
Both started five games as freshmen.
Arkansas must replace its entire weekend rotation from last season and four trusted relief pitchers. The Razorbacks recorded a school-record 1.89 earned run average last season, which was the lowest in college baseball since 1976.
Other returning pitchers who will throw from the bullpen the opening weekend include junior left-hander Michael Gunn and redshirt sophomore right-hander Landon Simpson.
The Razorbacks open the series Friday with the first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium.