Arkansas right-hander DJ Baxendale will be in the starting rotation when the No. 16 Razorbacks travel to Kentucky this weekend.
Baxendale will start Saturday night against the Wildcats after missing all of last weekend with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. He suffered the injury two weeks ago in a Friday night start against LSU and reopened the wound during a bullpen session last Sunday.
Baxendale's availability will be a lift for Arkansas' pitching staff. The sophomore is 5-1 this season with a team-best 1.62 earned run average among starting pitchers. He has also recorded two saves.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said prior to Wednesday's practice he believed the earliest Baxendale would be able to pitch would be the series finale Sunday, but the Razorbacks revised their starting rotation Thursday morning.
"I think DJ is really frustrated about it," Van Horn said Wednesday. "He knows we need him and he wants to pitch. He'll do everything he can (to pitch this weekend)."
Sophomore left-hander Randall Fant will start the first Friday night game of his career against the Wildcats (17-21, 2-13 SEC). Fant is 1-2 this season with a 3.12 ERA.
Fant will be the fifth different pitcher to start a Friday game for the Razorbacks this season.
"I feel like Randall is pitching better and is giving us a chance to win," Van Horn said. "If we can get DJ back, we feel like we have good middle relievers and a good closer in (Nolan) Sanburn. We've got a good mix of right- and left-handed pitchers. We just need to get our starting pitching figured out."
Freshman Ryne Stanek was originally scheduled to start Friday night but is no longer listed as a starter for this weekend, though Arkansas hasn't listed a starter for Sunday.
The Razorbacks will likely piece that game together with
their pitching staff similar to the way they did using five pitchers in a 6-5 win at Oral Roberts on Tuesday.
Colby Suggs will look to be more involved this weekend after an impressive performance Tuesday night. One of several freshmen right-handers on Arkansas' staff, Suggs pitched three scoreless innings and picked up the win against the Golden Eagles.
"I've been putting in a lot of work and the coaches have seen that," Suggs said. "They decided to give me a chance and I took advantage of it."
Arkansas (27-9, 8-7) has won nine of its last 10 games and is in a three-way tie for the SEC West lead entering the weekend, which marks the beginning of the second half of the conference season.
"I try not to look too much down the road, but I know who we've got and it isn't easy," Van Horn said. "We've got nine of 15 on the road and the teams that are coming here are pretty good.
"The team has learned how to win after some adversity at the beginning of conference. It's been fun to watch them. I think the team is pretty mentally tough and think they believe they're going to win every game."
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