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.
Tygart takes another step forward in comeback
Arkansas pitcher Brady Tygart walks toward the dugout during a game against South Carolina on Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas right-hander Brady Tygart pitched three scoreless innings Saturday in his longest outing since returning from an elbow injury April 28.
Tygart threw 37 pitches on a pitch count of about 40 — nearly twice the number, 20, he threw in each of his previous outings against Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
“We’re thinking about down the road, and down the road is getting here; it’s going to be here before we know it,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said, referencing Tygart’s pitch count and the NCAA postseason. “Hopefully we can build him up and next week maybe he can go 50. We’ve got a short week like everybody in the league, so we didn’t want to pitch him too much.”
Slowly building up Tygart’s pitch count is an exercise in patience for the Razorbacks because of his talent. He is pitching as well in his limited outings as he did before he sprained his ulnar collateral ligament during a March 1 game against Illinois State. The injury caused him to miss eight weeks of games.
Tygart has thrown six scoreless innings since his return and has increased his innings finished by one each week.
He was rolling against South Carolina when he was taken out of the game after the top of the third inning. He struck out Dylan Brewer to end the inning after allowing a lead-off single to Will Tippett.
Tygart allowed 1 hit, struck out 4 and hit 1 batter. He threw 26 of 37 pitches for strikes.
“I felt like I was in control,” Tygart said when asked about how difficult the short outings are for himself, “but, I mean, these games, they don't matter compared to the postseason. That's what we're building up for, so I can't be too mad about it.”
Van Horn said it’s tempting to let Tygart pitch longer.
“We’d have liked him to pitch five innings tonight if we could,” Van Horn said, “but we didn’t feel like that was a safe thing to do.”
In the week leading up to the outing, Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs said coaches are having to think “rationally” about the best way to use Tygart.
“Brady wants to go throw seven innings,” Hobbs said. “Brady thinks he can go throw 100 pitches right now. That’s the best thing about Brady — I think that’s what we love about him — but it’s also this part you’ve got to rein him back in.
“It’s honestly why we are putting him in the role we put him in….We had to think through it and thinking, ‘If we start him, he won’t go out and just total high octane every single pitch and just throw a ton of breaking balls, try to strike everybody out.’
“We know we need him and we also know that he wants to go out there and throw 1,000 pitches every outing. We’ve got to help him be smart.”
Van Horn said Tygart’s role might change as the season winds down.
“We’d like to start him down the road, but maybe we have to use him out of the [bullpen] in relief,” Van Horn said. “We don’t know how we’re going to handle him yet. We’re just going to let him show us what to do a little bit.
“But also the game is going to tell us what to do and how we need to work our pitching staff to win games.”
Tygart indicated the process of building toward the postseason feels a little like building toward the regular season in the fall and winter.
"I think it helps me focus on my goal," Tygart said. "I knew tonight I was only going to go 40 pitches, so I knew I had to execute and get it done."
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