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.
Caleb Bolden to miss 2019 with Tommy John
Arkansas pitcher Caleb Bolden throws during a game against Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas is down a pitcher, but recovery is going well for the team's likely-starting second baseman entering Day 1 of preseason practice Friday.
Sophomore right-hander Caleb Bolden will not pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in December, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Thursday. Bolden pitched 10 times and started four games as a freshman, and recorded a 4.40 ERA.
"That injury happened after fall (practice) ended, before Christmas Break," Van Horn said. "He wasn't throwing very well and I think he had some irritation for awhile. He was throwing a bullpen and basically walked off and said, 'My elbow hurts.'"
Bolden had been expected to be a routinely-used reliever this season. He represented 28 2/3 innings of the Razorbacks' 173 1/3 innings of returning pitching from a year ago.
Van Horn said that a year ago he and his coaching staff envisioned Bolden being a weekend starter as a sophomore, but his performance dropped off late in his freshman season with decreased velocity and a breaking ball that was not as sharp as it was earlier in the year.
In retrospect, it became obvious that Bolden had pitched through an elbow injury.
"When they got in there they said, 'This has been hurt a long time,'" Van Horn said of doctors who performed the surgery. "He had a lot of scar tissue in there and he ended up completely tearing it."
The prognosis is better for second baseman Trevor Ezell, a Bryant native who transferred to Arkansas from Southeast Missouri State last summer via the NCAA's graduate-transfer rule.
Ezell is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery to repair a labrum injury he played through last season at SEMO. Ezell did not take live at-bats or go through live fielding during fall practice, but said he is able to throw the ball around 150 feet now.
"It's getting better every day," Ezell said. "We've just been smart with it and tried not to rep it too much. We took it real slow in the fall and took it slow over the course of Winter Break. We're slowly getting back into it as we approach the season."
Ezell and redshirt freshman Jacob Nesbit are battling to start at second base when the Razorbacks open the season against Eastern Illinois on Feb. 15. Arkansas must replace departed All-SEC second baseman Carson Shaddy.
"I think he'll be able to play in the field," Van Horn said of Ezell. "There are some limitations there and cold weather hasn't helped any. That shoulder, they tightened it up pretty good. Routine ground balls and double plays, he's turning fine. Going to his right it's a little bit of an issue making that throw right now."
If he can't play in the field, Ezell, who batted .377 with 6 home runs and 50 RBI in 56 games last season at SEMO, is a candidate to be a designated hitter. Ezell bats from both sides of the plate.
"His plate discipline" looks good, Van Horn said, "hitting in batting practice. I'm looking forward to getting him out there in a game situation this weekend."
Arkansas will practice Friday beginning at 1:30 p.m. inside Baum Stadium, but will not scrimmage as previously planned because of forecasted cold weather. The Razorbacks plan to scrimmage Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday and Monday at times to be announced later. The scrimmages will be shortened to six or seven innings, Van Horn said.
All outdoor practices are open to the public free of charge.
• Van Horn said Isaiah Campbell, Patrick Wicklander, Kole Ramage, Kevin Kopps and Connor Noland are candidates to start on the weekend this season.
• Likely position starters are Jordan McFarland or Matt Goodheart at first base; Trevor Ezell or Jacob Nesbit at second base; Casey Martin at shortstop; Jack Kenley at third base; Matt Goodheart or Christian Franklin in left field; Dominic Fletcher in center field; Heston Kjerstad in right field; and Casey Opitz or Zack Plunkett at catcher.
• Van Horn will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame following Friday's practice. The induction will be a first-of-its-kind ceremony at the Fayetteville Town Center. Tickets are $75 per person. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.