Dave Van Horn seemed to talk himself out of Blaine Knight's spot in the weekend rotation on Monday at the Swatter's Club luncheon. The Arkansas baseball coach seemed to realize that it was his call.
Knight, freshman from Bryant, has started three straight Saturday games for the Hogs. He was solid in winning his first outing, but has struggled the last two weekends with no decisions. He's 1-0 with a 6.97 ERA.
"If I have any say so, he will not be starting," Van Horn said as he tried to set the weekend rotation.
Van Horn added that he's the head coach, but that pitching coach Dave Jorn could "talk him out of it."
Knight has good velocity, sometimes hitting 91 to 92 mph. But Van Horn said that's not enough to over power college hitters.
"If you are up and he's been up with his fast ball and his breaking ball, they will hit you," he said. "So he's got to locate.
"He might be able to get it up there as much as 92 to 93, if he goes just one. Maybe that's where he needs to be, not starting."
Later when Van Horn met with the media, there was more explanation on the rotation. It's clear that Dominic Taccolini will continue to start on Friday games. Keaton McKinney will likely move from Sunday to Saturday. That leaves Sunday open.
It could be Weston Rogers, freshman from Springdale Har-Ber. But, Rogers could get a start in a midweek game against Gonzaga.
"We might skip Weston this weekend and then get him some extra work next week and start him against South Carolina on Sunday," Van Horn said. "I wish we had done this last weekend."
As far as this weekend, the Sunday game could be just a situation where the Hogs "staff it." Van Horn said they could also use Zach Jackson as a starter on Sunday if he's not needed on Friday or Saturday.
Jackson took the loss on Saturday after pitching twice on the week. He gave up a home run and four hits.
"He ran out of gas," Van Horn said. "Next time, I probably won't ask him if he's OK. You do that, they tell you they feel great. But he wasn't."
James Teague could be a candidate as a starter at some point, but Van Horn continues to emphasize the junior from Bartlesville feels more comfortable as a reliever. Plus, the Hogs are going slow with Teague after he sustained a stress reaction in his elbow to end last season.
"We don't think he's healthy enough (for a start)," Van Horn said. "We want to see how he does. But maybe we could (start Teague) in league games."
Van Horn has been pointing at Rogers as a likely starter since he arrived on campus. He's a lefty with three pitchers, including a plus change-up that works well against righthanders.
"Rogers has thrown well two innings at a time," Van Horn said. "His top pitch is that change-up. If he gets the other two pitches going, he could get into the weekend rotation. I'd like to have a lefty with two righthanders."
The Hogs will try to play two midweek games against Gonzaga, weather permitting. Rain is forecast all week. Game time for both Tuesday and Wednesday games is 3 p.m. Gonzaga has made it to town and is on spring break after winning one of three over the weekend at TCU.
"They are here, so we will try to play," Van Horn said.
Gonzaga took two games from the Hogs at Baum Stadium last year. The Hogs were rolling at 11-2. It started a stretch that left the Hogs at 15-15.
"It took us a month to recover," he said. "A series can change your year. Baseball teams can be fragile.
"They've got an older team. They've got some lefthanders in their lineup and a couple of switch hitters hitting hitting three, four."
Van Horn said his team recalls the Gonzaga series, especially the end when the visitors celebrated.
"They beat us in a tight game and then handed it to us pretty good," Van Horn said. "We remember them celebrating on our field after that second one."
Van Horn was pleased with McKinney's outing on Sunday.
"He's still not 100 percent," Van Horn said. "But he's going to be one of our mainstays."
The Hogs have used 17 pitchers so far this season. Jordan Rodriguez, a lefty with a sweeping breaker, has pitched six times, tying for the team lead with Jackson. Doug Willey and Cannon Chadwick have both made five appearances.
"We've got some young arms and they throw strikes," Van Horn said. "The young guys give us confidence."
Van Horn said Willey has proven to be an effective setup man with a slid sinker.
"He competes," Van Horn said. "He really pitched tremendous in Houston. He's ptiched better in games than in our scrimmages.
"Jordan Rodriguez was a starter in junior college. He doesn't throw hard, but he fields his position well and is confident. He's a good matchup guy."
Some of the young pitchers still haven't gotten many innings.
"You talk about some of them, we just haven't gotten them out there enough," he said. "For example, Jake Reindl has pitched once. But his stuff was electric.
"Isaiah Campbell has pitched only once. Kacey Murphy has been good and will probably be a starter at some point."
Van Horn talked about his strategy to list Taccolini as the designated hitter in his Sunday lineup, knowing the weekend starter would not bat. He said he wanted the freedom to change the DH from the seven hole without burning a player at the start of the game.
"Stanford does that almost every game and Vanderbilt does it a lot," Van Horn said. "I've done it before, just not here. I'm kinda old school and I want to tell the other guy what my starters are going to be. I'm not going to be playing games. But this was a different day, with the wind blowing in and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. This gave me some freedom."
Van Horn said he's been a bit surprised with the ratio of home runs (18) to doubles (19) his offense has produced so far.
"I thought we would be a gap type offense," he said. "That's what we work on. I thought we'd hit a lot more doubles than home runs."
Van Horn wants to make sure his hitters aren't trying to hit home runs. He thought Michael Bernal might have been trying to pull the ball too much after hitting several home runs on the weekend in Houston.
"Michael was pull happy," he said. "But he showed me something yesterday. He hit some hard the other way and on another day two of those to right might have been out."
Carson Shaddy has hit five home runs and no doubles or triples.
"I told Carson I don't want him to hit home runs," he said. "I want him hitting doubles."
Van Horn is pleased the team is hitting .306, but more excited that the on base percentage is .410.
"I'm all about on base percentage," he said. "I look at that and the ratio between strikeouts, walks and hit by pitch. We are plus 11 there. We've had 70 walks, 10 hit by pitch against 69 strikeouts.
"When you get into conference play, you are going to have more strikeouts by quite a bit. But it's a ratio that's important. I like the way we've started."
Van Horn went through his batting order. He likes the way juco transfer Jake Arledge has blossomed, hitting .480 in limited time. He's likely going to be a regular now. He also thinks freshman Eric Cole has a bright future, but admitted he ran into better pitching in Houston and struggled.
"The Rice starter on Friday, I'd done some checking and scouts told me he was going to be a number four starter in the big leagues," Van Horn said. "Eric leads off against him and strike three was in the catcher's mitt before he swung the bat. He came back to the dugout and I told him, 'Welcome to Division I baseball.' Eric is going to be a good hitter. He has to make some adjustments, but he will.
"Arledge has figured it out. He was on the bench and he didn't like it. He's done a tremendous job. He is a leadoff type guy. He hit in the three hole in junior college. He can play all three outfield spots."