Dave Van Horn never pulls punches and Monday's talk at the Swatter's Club lunch was no different for the Arkansas baseball coach.
Van Horn went over the details of the last month, including the weekend series just completed with Missouri. The Tigers took the last two to win the series, 2-1. Arkansas is at 19-9 on the season, 4-5 in the SEC standings.
There was discussion of the struggles of the starting pitching with a promise of a change this weekend with a trip to Ole Miss. Van Horn also covered some questions from the audience, including a called third strike against Jake Arledge midway through the game.
Van Horn was on the umpire hard. Finally, the ump looked and pointed to himself and said, "I missed it." Dave said I looked away at that point. He said, "I said thank you."
Van Horn also covered the chance to bunt the runners over in the ninth against Oklahoma State in a midweek loss on Tuesday.
"You can bunt them up, but when you do then you are playing for a tie," Van Horn said. "I had Carson Shaddy up and I let him hit. We also knew that Cullen Gassaway was next and he's hit into some double plays. We wanted to try to win the game. We had used up our pitching and I thought we needed to try to win it then."
Keaton McKinney and Dominic Taccolini are both available in the bullpen Wednesday night at Memphis.
Starters on the weekend at Ole Miss will likely be James Teague, Zach Jackson and Barrett Loeske, although Van Horn was not sure of the order with the first two games. Loeske will probably pitch on Sunday again.
Van Horn was unsure who would start on Wednesday at Memphis, but said no one would go more than two innings.
The Hogs got two lefthand pitching commitments on Sunday. Van Horn told the group that, but didn't reveal names. I am aware of at least one of them. It's 6-1 Evan Hiatt of Little Rock Catholic. Both of the commitments are sophomores.
Van Horn said Taccolini and McKinney are both healthy, just not living up to expectations.
McKinney is 1-1 with a 6.07 ERA in seven starting appearances.
"His arm is healthy," Van Horn said. "He's healed (after hip surgery) and is bigger and stronger. He's all over the place as far as velocity, but when you add it all up, he is averaging 86 (with the fast ball). In high school, he was at 94. We haven't seen that.
"It's interesting what's going on. We would like to see his motor get going a little higher, especially on the mound."
Van Horn said sometimes players coming off great freshmen seasons come back to struggle as a sophomore.
"That's what is kinda happened with Keaton," Van Horn said. "He's running into that. We have gone to get him early and we've let him pitch.
"I took him out Saturday after 92 pitches. As I was going to the dugout, someone yelled from the stands, leave him in. I did, for 92 pitches."
As far as the changed rotation, Van Horn said, "We will make a few changes. Why? It can't hurt. We'll see if McKinney and Taccolini can't pitch out of the bullpen. They are struggling now, but they can still turn it around. They are not hurt. Their pride is hurt a little bit. It's issues going on between the ears."
Van Horn said at some point Josh Alberius might get some starts.
"I just don't want to right now because he's saving us in middle relief," Van Horn said. "He's got the ability to start and he can go awhile now."
Van Horn said he planned to start Teague two weekends ago, but he came down with the flu.
"He's OK now," Van Horn said. "I think Jackson showed he can go awhile yesterday (with 87 pitches). He's ready to start. I'm interested to watch and see how it goes."
Van Horn said he'll juggle the batting order, too. Darien Simms, used off the bench, will likely go into right field for Wednesday night and the weekend series at Ole Miss.
"He's average on defense," Van Horn said. "But he's shown he can hit and battle. He helps us on the base paths."
Simms will likely go into right field. Luke Bonfield is likely to play left field. Austin Catron will probably get the call at designated hitter.
Carson Shaddy will probably slide into the second spot in the batting order. Catron might hit third with Gassaway staying at fourth.
Michael Bernal, a constant at No. 8, will probably move into the fifth spot in the order.
"I like Michael in the back of the order, but we are going to have to move him up," Van Horn said. "The rest of it will probably be determined by the starting pitcher. We'll look at the left-right combinations."
With Jackson starting, senior transfer Doug Willey will likely fill the closer spot. He's yet to give up an earned run in 15 innings, although some inherited runners have scored.
Cody Scroggins will work with the pitchers now after getting the final three outs against Missouri in the 10-1 loss on Sunday. Scroggins, freshman from Bentonville, had played in 11 games with 13 at bats as an infielder.
Van Horn said when he approached Scroggins about "closing" next year on Wednesday of last week, he responded, "Awesome." Then, he asked to meet with Van Horn the next day and asked, "Why not now?" That's when Van Horn ramped up the process to get Scroggins ready.
Van Horn said Scroggins has enough arm strength to pitch more than one inning like Sunday.
"I think he can," Van Horn said. "He throws a lot in our normal practice.
"I think next year you could see him play second base and then come into pitch in the same game. He can be a two-way player."
Pitcher Cannon Chadwick, impressive early this season, may be ready to pitch this weekend after battling a sore elbow.
"We thought he might have a tear," Van Horn said. "But the MRI was good. He pitched in the bullpen Sunday with no pain. He'll have another light bullpen and we think he may be available."
"He's talented, really talented," Van Horn said. "I think he can be a two-way player for us next year. He's got a great arm, really strong. He throws a lot already, every day. Everyone who watches him throw is impressed by his arm. He has the best arm of our infielders."