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 Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award.
Isaiah Campbell's status unclear for opening weekend
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell looks toward home plate during a scrimmage Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas isn't naming a starter for Sunday's game against Miami (Ohio).
The Razorbacks' third starting position is listed as TBA, but the hope is sophomore right-hander Isaiah Campbell will be able to fill the void. Campbell has been touted as one of Arkansas' best pitchers this off-season, but is experiencing soreness in the back of his pitching arm.
"We don't know (if Campbell will be able to pitch) yet," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We might make that decision as late as Saturday. We're just going to take it easy with him and let him rest a little bit the next few days."
Campbell saw a jump in his pitching ability during the off-season. He added more muscle and increased his fastball velocity to the mid-90s, and has topped out at 97 mph.
Campbell was an all-star in the Coastal Plains League last summer and after a strong fall practice had been in the running to be the team's starter on opening day.
"He's put himself in a really good position," pitching coach Wes Johnson said last month. "...He's throwing the baseball really well right now and his stuff in the strike zone has been really good."
Sophomore Blaine Knight and junior-college transfer Trevor Stephan will start Friday and Saturday, respectively for the Razorbacks. Van Horn said the starters will be on a pitch limit of around 75 to 80 pitches.
"It just depends on how the game goes," Van Horn said. "There's a hard 70 and an easy 70....A lot of times if you cruise along and throw 15, 16, 18 pitches an inning you can work a little bit more."
"It's early season so we're not going to try to overwork anybody, for sure," Knight added.
The Sunday TBA designation will keep the Razorbacks from locking anyone into that third starter role. Van Horn said he wants all arms to be available for the first two games if they are needed.
Among the possible starters for Sunday include senior right-hander Josh Alberius, sophomore right-hander Kevin Kopps and freshman left-hander Evan Lee. Alberius had been mentioned as a possible midweek starter, but the Razorbacks don't play any midweek games following the opening series.
"We'll do whatever we have to do to win those first two games," Van Horn said. "I don't want to leave someone out because I've made the decision to throw someone Sunday, but we could have used them Saturday. We'll do what we need to do."
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