Bolsinger Fine In Pen

FAYETTEVILLE — Mike Bolsinger has no preference.

He loves starting and craves being handed the ball to open up any game. Then again, the 6-foot-2 junior right-hander just can't shake the feeling he gets in the bullpen when Arkansas' coaches send the word to warm up.

Good thing.

Bolsinger spent the summer working on his stamina, preparing for a likely starting role this season. But an offseason bout with mononucleosis drained him of energy and forced him to miss the Razorbacks' first six games. When he returned, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn sent him to the bullpen.

And as the 13th-ranked Hogs take on South Carolina tonight in new Carolina Stadium, Bolsinger enjoys knowing he has a chance to throw pitches in any of this weekend's three contests.

"Coming out of the bullpen is a little more fast-paced and hot and you've got to (be) ready," said Bolsinger, a native of McKinney, Texas. "To me I guess it's a little more fun coming out in the eighth and ninth because there's a little more pressure. It's a lot of fun, especially with all the fans (at Arkansas). It's just a lot of fun."

Bolsinger wasn't having any fun this winter.

He just didn't feel right throughout November and December but ignored feeling weak and lethargic at times. Finally, when Arkansas started preseason drills for this season, Bolsinger couldn't neglect his symptoms any longer.

"I remember it was two weeks after my birthday, so around the middle of February," Bolsinger said. "I thought it was a cold. Then we started doing scrimmages and (afterward), I would go home and be worn out. I didn't even have the energy to get out of bed for our last scrimmage, and after that, my eyes started turning yellow.

"So that's when I went to the doctor. Those next couple of weeks were just horrible. I had no energy."

Bolsinger had no patience, either. Van Horn had a hard time keeping Bolsinger from disregarding the orders of team doctors.

"He was really upset and frustrated," Van Horn said. "Fortunately, by the time (the doctors) evaluated him, he was already past the worst of it. If he would've just been getting (the disease), he probably wouldn't have pitched yet."

Van Horn didn't use Bolsinger, who lost about 10 pounds while sick, until a 7-3 victory over Valparaiso on March 3. He exhibited rust and raw ability in the outing, striking out four but allowing two runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings.

As an experiment, Van Horn started Bolsinger against Florida on March 14. Bolsinger walked four and lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving his coach a valid reason to return him to the bullpen. Bolsinger hasn't allowed a hit in five of six appearances ever since.

Perhaps his illness helped Bolsinger land in the role that suits him best.

"We felt, for the team's sake, he could help us most out of the pen late," Van Horn said. "I think Mike can start, too. If we're in a regional and it's game five, and he's only pitched an inning or two, we'd give him the ball without a problem.

"He's very versatile. He can go five, six, seven innings. He's just been so good for us in the seventh and eighth inning."

Just like Tuesday night, when Bolsinger put Missouri State down in order in the bottom of the eighth.

"It's hard to change it right now," Van Horn said.



Profile



Mike Bolsinger

Class: Junior.

Position: Pitcher.

Throws: Right.

Height: 6-foot-2.

Weight: 212.

Hometown: McKinney, Texas.

Notables: Has recorded 24 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings this season and has posted a 2-0 record and 2.60 ERA in nine appearances (eight in relief). ... Appeared in 15 games last season for Arkansas, tying for second in wins (four) and leading the Razorbacks in average strikeouts per inning (1.25). ... Posted a 6-1 record with a 2.93 ERA over 46 innings as a freshman at Grayson County Community College in Denison, Texas. ... Drafted in the 34th round of the 2006 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians after earning second-team All-State honors at North McKinney (Texas) High.




WEEKEND TICKET



No. 13 Arkansas at South Carolina

WHEN: 6 p.m., today; 3 p.m., Saturday; Noon, Sunday.

WHERE: Carolina Stadium, Columbia, S.C.

ON THE AIR: KFAY-AM 1030; KURM-AM 790, FM-100.3; KHGG-AM 1580, FM-103.1; KXIO-FM 106.9.

RECORDS: Arkansas Razorbacks, 20-5, 8-1 Southeastern Conference; South Carolina Gamecocks, 19-8, 4-5.

SERIES: Arkansas leads 27-18.

LAST MEETING: Arkansas swept the series 3-0 in Fayetteville on May 9-11, winning 12-11, 6-3 and 4-2.

TODAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS: Arkansas, LHP Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 3.32 ERA); South Carolina, RHP Sam Dyson (4-1, 4.21).

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