Lefty junior Jalen Beeks thinks he can pitch this week in the NCAA Charlotte Regional. So does pitching coach Dave Jorn. But it's too early in the week to know for sure.
Beeks was the Friday night starter for much of the season for the Arkansas baseball team, but a "grade one strain" in his pitching elbow shut him down for the last three weeks while teammates won enough games to give him a chance to pitch again in postseason. Beeks made 12 starts for the Hogs, going 5-4 with a 2.11 ERA.
"I can't be straight with you right now because I don't know just yet," Beeks said Tuesday after throwing a bullpen off the mound in the last practice at Baum Stadium before heading to Virginia.
"I'm going to try to throw every day the rest of the week and just see how it feels. I've been able to do a little more every day."
Jorn is optimistic, but knows he needs to be realistic, too.
"Today, about every fifth pitch he felt a little something," Jorn said. "He said he can go. We'll see how he is tomorrow, then the next day and then the next day. That's how these things go. So far, so good. I think he can pitch, but he could tweak it in the next few days and we'll shut him down.
"There's a lot of value with what he's done and we aren't going to hurt him. I think he's going to be drafted very high and we don't want to risk something. We won't do that to him.
"We know his arm is sound and he's going to be fine. We've seen the MRI. There's no tear. We know that, but we won't risk anything."
Beeks is chomping at the bit to pitch. He thinks there is some unfinished business after a bad ending in the NCAA tournament last year at Manhattan, Kan.
"I've thought about that game a lot," Beeks said. "I want to redeem myself. I want to prove myself with the University of Arkansas."
No one else is thinking about that. They just look forward to a boost that Beeks' return could make for a pitching staff that might have been one man short the last three weekends.
"It would be huge to get him back," said Eric Fisher, the big first baseman who leads the team in home runs with nine. "We hope to have him back. But we've had some big freshmen step up and done a great job. They have kept us in some games, guys like Zach Jackson."
Fisher was named second team All-SEC on Tuesday. He is batting .265 with 43 RBI and is considered one of the best fielders in the SEC.
Jorn said Jackson is the likely candidate to fill the third starting role in regional play. For sure, Beeks isn't going to start.
"Beeks might give us a couple of innings," Jorn said. "Then we might could stretch him out if we got another weekend (with a Super Regional appearance). But Beeks is not going to start. I'm not sure he could pitch on back-to-back days. But he might could throw a few pitches on two different days. We just aren't going to push him. If he did two innings on one day, that might be it. But maybe we can use him in a critical spot."
Beeks isn't sure about feel for his full arsenal of pitches.
"The fast ball, I'm OK there," he said. "The off speed stuff, that's a different thing. I don't have much of a feel there yet. I'm working on my change and slider now. I don't have feel for those yet.
"But I'm so much better. About a week and a half ago, I couldn't throw a pitch. Now, I'm throwing long toss, 150 feet and can get on the mound. My long toss is fine so I have confidence in my (elbow). Throwing off the mound was fine today.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't know how it was going to be. But the doctors told me I couldn't hurt it, that it was fine. They said I just needed two weeks rest and I'd be able to go. That's the way it's worked. I didn't have to take any shots. It feels good."
It didn't feel good to watch.
"I"ve tried to be a good leader, but it's hard to just watch," he said. "I did what I could do to help my team with encouragement and support. They did great without me. To be honest, it looked kinda iffy for us when I went down. They did it, though. They played great without me."
Jorn said there were concerns because Beeks had gobbled up so many innings all year.
"We really had done it with about four guys," Jorn said. "We had those three starting pitchers and they were going deep every time out. We didn't have many guys for awhile, but some guys have developed."
Maybe another young arm stepped up last week in Hoover. Freshman James Teague was steller in relief in a rally win over Ole Miss.
"You saw Teague sky rocket last week for us," said Chris Oliver, the Hogs' second game starter for the regionals. "He's one of the young guys who has come on for us."
Jorn is the architect of one of the nation's best pitching staffs year in and year out. He lost his entire starting rotation from last year in Ryne Stanek, Barrett Astin and Randall Fant. Key relievers Colby Suggs and Brandon Moore also went in the draft. But this year's staff has an impressive 2.63 ERA. He said there wasn't any talk of pride or living up to last year's lofty results.
"We didn't talk about pride," he said. "We didn't talk about last year. We just told guys to go out there and pitch the best they can. That's what we do every year.
"We had some guys we knew could pitch. They just needed innings."
Beeks On Schedule to Pitch
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballYesterday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016