Dave Van Horn: Forrest Fine

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn expects T. J. Forrest to pitch against his former team this weekend. The Hogs play host to LSU in a battle for first place in the SEC West.

Arkansas plays host to SEC West leader LSU in a three-game series this weekend. The good news for the Razorbacks is that one of their top pitchers is available again.

LSU leads the West at 14-7. The Hogs, after leading the division the first seven weekends of conference play, are just behind at 13-7.

Van Horn said Tuesday on the SEC conference call righthanded pitcher T. J. Forrest is good to pitch this weekend.

Forrest didn't pitch last weekend to rest a sore shoulder. Forrest had been a weekend starter all season after joining the Hogs in the fall out of junior college.

"He's rested and ready to go," Van Horn said of Forrest. "He's fine."

Van Horn said Dallas Kecuchel will start Friday, Brett Eibner on Saturday. Forrest could pitch in relief in either of those two games.

If he hasn't, then he would be available to start on Sunday. He said he'll leave Sunday as TBA because Forrest is rested and ready to help in the bullpen in those first two games.

That would tell me that, as usual, Van Horn will do everything he can to win in the early part of the series and worry about Sunday when it gets there. That's been the way he's played it through the years with his top three pitchers.

Interestingly, Forrest signed with LSU out of high school. He had arm surgery soon after arriving. He pitched a little as a freshman, and left after the fall of his sophomore year to pitch in junior college.

"We knew about him in high school and tried to recruit him," Van Horn said. "When he was in juco, we kept hearing his name and we were trying to sign a couple of junior college pitchers and he was interested in us."

There should be a great desire for Forrest to pitch against his former team this weekend. How does Van Horn think that will go?

"That may be the case," Van Horn said. "But in my mind, he's a mid to upper 80s guy and he has to throw to his spots and stay within himself."

Van Horn was asked by a member of the national media (Baseball America, I think) to describe his team.

"I think when you look at us, we are just a team that battles," he said. "We are solid in a lot of areas, but we are not a great, great team in any areaq. Offensively, we are not great, pretty average numbers. We haven't really put it together swinging the bats for a complete weekend."

Arkansas has three big weekends to close the SEC season with LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss. Does his team look forward to competing against the three teams high in the standings with the Razorbacks?

"We have to be," he said. "It's been there all along. We knew the schedule. I saw it last year when it came out. I knew we were going to play the three teams picked very high in our division the final three weekends. They were all picked ahead of us. It's a cliche, but it applies. We have to play them one at a time. We have to just worry about Friday night against LSU.

"We are glad we are home. We've been on the road in the SEC the last two weekends. We went 3-3. That's not great, but it's not bad. Now we get six of the last nine at home."

Brett Eibner has been red hot at the plate and on the mound of late. What has turned it around for him?

"On the mound, we were trying to develop him," Van Horn said. "He pitched those Tuesday night games. He had a couple of good outings after a couple not so good. He'd take two steps forward, two steps back, then he pitched really well two weeks in a row against Missouri State, a pretty good club.

"Now he's in a routine. He got some confidence in the game with Georgia. He's learning how to pitch. He can pitch backwards now, throw a breaking ball in a fast ball count, or vice versa. The Georgia game was huge for him. He pitched well against Tennessee, but we left some guys out there and didn't score enough runs for him.

"Offensively, he had some flaws in his swing early and he really struggled. We worked on that. I think what I saw against Oklahoma in that last at bat was really impressive. He'd hit two home runs earlier, and he fell behind 0-2. Then, he fouled off five or six pitches. He took a border line pitch, a breaking ball that was up a little for the walk to win the game. It was an incredible at bat."

As for the weekend competition, Van Horn lauded the LSU Tigers.

"We know what they have, we've been watching them," he said. "They have great, great talent up and down that lineup and on the mound. They can hit, they steal bases with great athletes and they are really talented on the mound. They are way up there with strikeouts. We know what we are going to face."

Van Horn noted the first two starters for the Tigers, Anthony Ranaudo and Louis Coleman. Ranaudo has a 2.89 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 65 innings against just 23 walks. Coleman's numbers are just as impressive -- 3.07 ERA, 86 strikeouts with just 16 walks in 67 innings.

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