Bama Losing Arms Race

The Alabama baseball team is losing the arms' race, and the squad needs a miracle - or at least miracle healer – to ready some competent Crimson Tide pitching arms before the Southeastern Conference season gets away.

The pitching in Tuscaloosa is thin as a Motel 6 bed sheet thanks to 1.) Alabama entering the season with fewer pitchers on the roster than past teams under Wells (note Bama's improved hitting and fielding options along with looming scholarship limitations not endured by lottery state schools), and 2.) injury trouble that has sidelined Austin Graham (still recovering from shoulder surgery last year), Austin Hyatt (arm soreness), Brandon Belcher (muscle strain) and Patrick Kelly (broken hand).

Add to it that Casey Kebodeaux hasn't been able to get more than three outs in either of his last two Sunday starts and the Crimson Tide gets itself into more of a bind as each inning of the weekend ticks away. Now Bama is forced to look for a new Sunday starter.

All that being said, it might get worse. Bernard Robert has been Alabama's biggest surprise of the first two weeks in the SEC after pitching a complete game two weeks ago and going into the 10th inning on Saturday. Can he continue that pace of pitching 9 (or more) innings in every start? You have to figure the innings might catch up with him sooner or later.

Tommy Hunter's in an interesting situation, too. He's Alabama's best pitcher and was the Sunday starter a year ago. This year he's being asked to come out of the bullpen, however. On Friday night Hunter slammed the door on Ole Miss and got the save. On Saturday he couldn't hold a 2-2 tie, giving up three singles in the 11th inning to allow the winning run to score. On Sunday he got knocked around for five runs on five hits in one and a third innings.

With Hunter in the bullpen, Alabama has a really good shot on Friday night's with sophomore lefty Miers Quigley to start things off and Hunter to close them out. In theory, that leaves Hunter available for Saturday or Sunday (but not on both days, with any luck) to give Alabama an okay shot for another weekend win.

If Hunter goes into the starting rotation, there's no one to close out any of the three weekend games, so Bama would have to hope for Hunter and Robert to pitch complete games to win a series. With Hunter being a power pitcher, he will tire more quickly and be even less likely than Robert to throw a complete game. The problem is, right now Alabama is going to have to put someone that's not very good on the mound at a critical point in the weekend.

We've known that for several weeks now. So, the question is, can Bama get some more quality pitching healthy and back in the rotation before Robert and Hunter's arms fall off?

Elsewhere in Baseball

In other wacky baseball news, LSU tied with Kentucky on Sunday in an eight-inning game. If you don't already know, when a team flies a commercial airline for a Southeastern Conference road game a curfew is put on a game, and after that curfew time the teams are not allowed to begin a new inning: win, lose or draw. So because Kentucky had a flight to catch, they all packed up and left after eight innings.

Baseball is a funny game. If good pitchers are working quickly, a game can be finished in just over a couple of hours. But other times – most times in college baseball – there are slugfests, pitching changes and runners on base that slow the game considerably, often making it spill over the three hour mark. Contrast that with college basketball, where unless there is overtime, games are usually within five minutes of the two-hour mark.

Predictability in timing is good for television, good for travel and good for fans. But that's baseball, and something has to be done to eliminate eight-inning ties from the game. It would be nice to see those who administer things like the curfew rule (Southeastern Conference office) and the unfair scholarship disparity take the sport more seriously.


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