Bama to Get Arms Back for LSU Series

Alabama has reinforcements arriving on the pitcher's mound just in time for this weekend's three-game Southeastern Conference series with LSU at Sewell-Thomas Stadium beginning Friday night at 6:36 p.m.

Bama and LSU will play at 6:06 p.m. on Saturday and at 2:36 p.m. on Sunday afternoon in the televised series (Jumbo Sports Network and CSS).

After running out of pitching in the Sunday games of the first two Southeastern Conference series, Alabama (17-10 overall, 3-3 SEC) will add Brandon Belcher and Austin Hyatt back into the pitching mix this weekend against LSU (15-11-1 overall, 1-4-1 SEC). Both have been out of the lineup with arm trouble. Belcher last pitched in Alabama's season opening series against Georgia State on February 10 before leaving with a muscle strain.

"He threw yesterday for the first time in a live controlled scrimmage," Wells said in a teleconference on Thursday. "He'll be able to pitch this weekend for the first time in a while. He'll be on a pitch count, but every little bit helps and hopefully he can get through this and every week keep getting stronger and throw more and more."

Sophomore Austin Hyatt, who has been one of Alabama's top relievers (8 appearances, 20.1 innings pitches, 1.77 ERA) is also once again available for Wells this weekend, and could be a candidate to start Sunday's game (as could Belcher) depending on how the first two games play out. As it has been in the first two weeks of the season, sophomore lefty Miers Quigley (4-0, 2.66 ERA) will start Friday night and senior right-hander Bernard Robert (3-3, 3.23 ERA) will start on Saturday.

"We'll have to split that Sunday game up," Wells said. "I don't know if Belcher's going to be able to start with the number of pitches they've allocated to him, but it might be an option to split the game up, let him start and then when his pitches are up use another guy."

Belcher's pitch-count for the weekend is 50, and he could also see time in left field where he has been playing. Freshman Austin Graham has also been medically cleared to return to the mound, Wells said.

"Graham's cleared to go also but as far as being game ready, needs some work," Wells said. "But the great news is he's cleared to pitch in games. We've got three more guys to help us that we haven't had."

Robert has been Alabama's most outstanding player during the first two weeks when the Tide was short-staffed. Against Tennessee Robert threw a complete game win and last week against Ole Miss pitched into the 10th inning allowing just two runs before leaving the game.

"He's certainly has been lights out in both his SEC appearances," Wells said. "Can he maintain that high level he's had? That's hard to say but he's going to be around there, I think you're going to get a good effort from him every time he goes out. Can he go pitch 9 or 10 innings each game? I doubt it. That's why when a guy pitches good we need to win."

Could Coaching Role Have Been Reversed?

Wells brushed off a question about how close he might have come to being LSU's head coach as "old news" when asked on Thursday. Paul Mainieri took over LSU's head coaching position after Smoke Laval was fired at seasons end last year, but there was heavy speculation before Mainieri's hiring that Bama's Wells, a Louisiana native and former assistant of LSU athletics director Skip Bertman, was seriously considered for or was considering the LSU position.

Wells went incognito after the Tide's elimination from the NCAA Championships last season, and reports from Louisiana had him discussing the LSU opening with Bertman. Bama's AD Mal Moore issued a statement during that limbo period saying that he had spoken to Wells and felt good about their meetings before Wells pulled his name out of the hat 10 days later.

Wells is in his 13th season at Alabama and is the dean of men's sport coaches at The University. His teams have consistently outperformed expectations despite scholarship disadvantages to lottery-state schools, including winning the Southeastern Conference regular season championship a year ago.


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