McKinney, Campbell eager for opening weekend starts

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws during a scrimmage Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws during a scrimmage Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

— Dave Van Horn has set his starting rotation for this weekend as Arkansas opens its season against Bucknell, and it includes a pair of players eager to return to the mound after missing significant time with injuries.

Junior righthander Blaine Knight will get the ball on Opening Day while Isaiah Campbell and Keaton McKinney are scheduled to follow on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

McKinney, who posted a 5-1 mark and earned freshman All-American honors in 2015, redshirted a season ago and underwent Tommy John surgery. The first six months of rehab was a trying time for McKinney and the longest he'd gone without picking up a baseball since he was a toddler.

He will be on a much shorter leash than Campbell and isn't expected to surpass 40-45 pitches in his first start, Van Horn said.

"I've been rehabbing this whole past year and it just means a lot that I came back this well and earned a spot to start this weekend," he said. "I was super excited when I found out. I wasn't really expecting it, but I've pitched well my last three outings this spring. This is the best I've felt since I've been here."

Van Horn said Campbell is "100 percent ready to go" after missing most of last season with bone spurs in his right elbow. He made one appearance in 2017, giving up three runs in two-thirds of an inning against Bryant on Feb. 25.

Campbell will be held to 80-85 pitches on Saturday and says the staff will get a detailed rundown of Bucknell's personnel today and Thursday.

"I'm eager to get back on the mound and get in front of these fans, pitch and face someone other than Arkansas baseball hitters," Campbell said. "That's the biggest thing. I'm ready to just get after them, get to my pitch count and just let the bullpen take it from there."

As for Knight, he is looking at a 4-5 inning outing dependent on the weather and score.

"It's been a long fall and a long offseason, and I'm excited to get back to it," Knight said. "Cold is cold. There's not a whole lot you can do about it. I'd rather pitch in the cold than hit in the cold, personally. I'm going to try to do what I did at Missouri last year during that two-hour delay.

"We're going to just play it by ear and see what happens."

Arkansas weekend rotation

Friday Blaine Knight (10-5 in 35 career appearances, 3.17 ERA in 139 innings)

Saturday Isaiah Campbell (3-1 in 14 career appearances, 4.45 ERA in 32.2 innings)

Sunday Keaton McKinney (7-7 in 34 career appearances, 4.51 ERA in 139.2 innings)

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