Bat Warmers Next for Baseball?

Arkansas heads to warm San Diego for a four-game series, but do the Hogs need something to heat the new bats?

Kyle Robinson hit three home runs last week with those not-so-hot bats that the NCAA has modified for the 2011 college baseball season. But is there more the Hogs could do with them? That's the question Dave Van Horn took a swing at Monday before the Swatter's Club gathering at the Clarion Inn.

Robinson earned SEC player of the week honors with a torrid 9 for 19 stretch in two games with McNeese State and three against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He had 13 RBI along with those three homers, including a two-run shot for the big blow in Sunday's 7-3 triumph.

But the "hot" story on the weekend happened in the South Carolina-Clemson series when bat warmers were questioned by one side. The fierce rivals split the first two games of their three-game series, with the rubber match set for Tuesday in Greenville, S.C. Clemson won, 10-5, on Sunday to snap a 14-game winning streak by the Gamecocks dating back to last season.

Apparently, the Clemson coaches accused the Carolina hitters of putting their bats in a warmer during the game to make them more lively. They challenged the bats after South Carolina's Jackie Bradley hit a home run early in Sunday's game.

Van Horn was asked about the situation by fans at Monday's meeting of the Swatter's Club.

"Maybe we need to get some bat warmers, too," Van Horn said kinda half jokingly. "I've seen them advertised. I know they are out there."

Van Horn said he talks to South Carolina coach Ray Tanner on a routine basis and will give him a call.

"I don't think it would matter on a 75 degree day," Van Horn said. "But on a cold day, maybe it would be good. Maybe we should take our bats into the clubhouse between innings."

Van Horn said his staff talked about the benefits of warm bats Saturday morning when the Hogs were taking batting practice in near freezing temperatures.

"We at least talked about that there might be an advantage to warm the bats when it is that cold," he said. "I don't think there is anything against it in the rules. It's something we probably ought to check on further."

They probably are not going to need them for their next few games. The Hogs travel to play a four-game series at San Diego State. The forecast is for 72 Thursday when the opener is slated.

Van Horn has more pressing thoughts. He's got a couple of injured regulars, outfielder Collin Kuhn and infielder Matt Reynolds. Kuhn has missed four games with a jammed hand. He should return to the lineup Thursday. Reynolds suffered a dislocated index finger of his throwing hand while putting down a bunt in Sunday's game.

"There's no break in the finger," Van Horn said of Reynolds. "The question will be when he can throw. He'll be able to swing a bat. You can swing a bat with the top finger off the bat. A lot of guys do that anyway. I think both Collin and Matt will start Thursday."

Reynolds told Van Horn he would play after coming back from the x-ray room Sunday afternoon.

Van Horn announced some changes to the starting rotation Sunday, but he had them fine tuned by Monday's meeting with the media after the Swatter's Club. DJ Baxendale will move to Friday night's second game of the San Diego State series in a modified starting rotation. On Sunday, Van Horn projected Baxendale to start the opener Thursday.

Baxendale, sophomore righthander, is the most experienced UA pitcher. He started the season opener and got the victory. He moved to the bullpen for his last three appearances, including his second save in Sunday's game. Van Horn said it's likely Baxendale (3-0) will be the starter in the SEC opener in two weeks at Auburn.

"We want him to start that game at Auburn on Friday night, so we want to go ahead and get his rest setup that way and he'll start the Friday night game at San Diego State," Van Horn said. "We want him to open that series and get us off to a good start."

Van Horn said the next issue will be to get freshmen starters Ryne Stanek and Brandon Moore back on track. Both had issues in their starts against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stanek has been bothering a cough while Moore lost velocity in his latest start.

"We had Stanek checked for mono," Van Horn said. "He had been sick the last 10 days. But he told us Sunday he felt better after being on antibiotics for a few days. We think he'll be fine."

Van Horn said Moore's velocity in his Saturday start was down.

"He was off 5 mph so that's a concern," Van Horn said, noting they will alter his workouts between starts in hopes of getting his strength back.

"With freshmen, sometimes that happens, they lose something after about three starts," he said. "He'll be alright. But we are going to change what some of them are doing between starts."

With Baxendale going to the starting rotation, Van Horn said true freshman Nolan Sanburn will likely get the nod as closer.

"Sanburn has the stuff and the attitude," Van Horn said. "He was throwing 94 to 95 this weekend. He's got a good breaker with bite. I think I like what we have there as a closer and with some others, possibly, too."

With Reynolds injured, Van Horn knows he can move Dominic Ficociello from first to the hot corner if necessary. Robinson can play there, too.

"We told Robinson to work there in pre-game and in infield Sunday, so he's getting some practice at third," Van Horn said. "He didn't take any flies in the outfield Sunday."

With Kuhn out the past four games, Jacob Morris may have worked himself into the job in centerfield. And he may claim the No. 2 spot in the batting order with some hot hitting. Morris has improved his average to .360 with a strong week. Kuhn will return to left, his position the last two years.

"You look at Morris and he might fit on our football team," Van Horn said. "He's 6-3, 215 and can run. He's a little quicker than Collin in center and we'll leave him there with the way he's hitting. I like him in the two spot with that kind of speed."

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