Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time 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.
Diamond Hogs battling off-season injuries
Tyler Spoon led Arkansas in hits and RBIs as a freshman.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will open the 2014 preseason Friday with a trio of projected starters rehabbing from off-season surgeries.
Catcher Jake Wise and outfielder Tyler Spoon each had double-hernia surgeries late last year, Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said Monday. Heralded freshman Andrew Benintendi is also recovering from a surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand discovered in November.
"You're talking three of our top four hitters, so I really feel fortunate we have found these things out," Van Horn said. "That would have been a bad deal if these guys had tried to play with this.
"With the lack of experience on our pitching staff, we can't afford to have offensive players out that we need in that lineup. If you look at our schedule, there aren't any games early you can say is an easy game."
Van Horn said Spoon and Benintendi have been limited in instructional workouts, but should be ready when team practice begins later this week. Benintendi has been held out of live pitching since the hand surgery to avoid any potential damage, Van Horn said.
Wise, whose hernia surgery was his second during the off-season, might not be ready to practice Friday. The senior underwent Tommy John surgery last summer after injuring his throwing elbow during the NCAA Manhattan Regional.
"Wise's arm is ahead of his sports hernia," Van Horn said. "He'll be involved in throwing drills, which is good, but as far as moving quick he's not there yet. I'm not sure if he'll be able to hit in our batting practice rounds.
"Jake can't do a whole lot right now like the other guys can. He looks good and he's moving around better, but it's a six-week situation and it's only been four or five (since the hernia surgery)."
Spoon, whose hernia surgery was earlier than Wise's, said Monday he feels fine but is still unable to make turns running the bases.
"I've felt really healthy for about two weeks now," said Spoon, who led the team with 49 RBIs last season. "I feel pretty much 100 percent. I think here in the next couple of days I'll be able to start running the bases. The swing feels good and my arm feels good, so I feel I'm ready to go."
Injuries have been prevalent this off-season for the Razorbacks, who begin the season Feb. 14 with a home series against Appalachian State. Infielder Brian Anderson broke his foot during the fall, but has been cleared to practice in the preseason.
Anderson, the team's projected starter at second base, was named a second-team preseason all-American on Monday by Perfect Game USA. Anderson was the team's leading hitter last season, batting .325 with 4 home runs and 36 RBIs.
Friday's practice is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Baum Stadium. All practices are open to the public.