A long reliever for much of last season while battling injuries and illnesses, Bolsinger was expected to figure into the weekend rotation somehow this season. Still the news of his starting came as a shock even to him.
"I didn't know that until you told me," Bolsinger said Monday afternoon. "It's a great feeling. My bullpen is going pretty well actually. I've always joked around with (pitching) Coach (Dave) Jorn that I've never really thrown good bullpens but this year is going real well."
Bolsinger was an instrumental piece to the College World Series puzzle in 2009, going 6-4 on the mound and recording four saves in 29 appearances out of the bullpen.
"I feel like I'm having a lot more fun this year than I was last year," Bolsinger said. "As a junior you get the whole draft thing in your head and this year I almost feel like I did my senior year of high school and not think about anything. I'm having fun playing ball with my friends. I'm excited."
Bolsinger will be followed in the rotation by redshirt sophomore left-hander Drew Smyly on Saturday and junior right-hander Brett Eibner on Sunday. Asked if Bolsinger was getting the start as a senior reward, Van Horn said that wasn't the case.
"I want to reward a guy for earning it and he's earned it," Van Horn said. "He's grown up a lot. He's stronger and he's healthy. He's had some injuries, a knee injury, an elbow injury, he had mono; he's fought it. This is the best he's felt since he's been here.
"Mike saved us last year out the pen. We'd bring him in down three runs the third or fourth inning and the next thing you know we're up a couple of runs with two innings left. Mike would just hold people down; he had a knack for it."
Van Horn said the first weekend rotation isn't necessarily the one that could be used later in the season.
"Mike's worked hard but he may end up being a reliever or a closer. He may stay on Friday night all year; I don't know yet," Van Horn said. "Drew Smyly had two great outings down the stretch (last season) but he's been a little inconsistent. We need to see a little more from him. Eibner has had some elbow issues and didn't pitch for us in the fall. He threw 30 pitches Saturday and was throwing a real easy 90 to 93 miles per hour. We'll put him on a 40-pitch limit Sunday and try to get three or four innings out of him."
Van Horn said the rotation isn't set in stone. Others, including freshman right-hander DJ Baxendale, could factor in throughout the year.
"I wouldn't have a problem starting Baxendale on Sunday at all," Van Horn said. "He's thrown well almost every time out."
Reynolds expected to start, too
Van Horn said freshman Matt Reynolds will likely get the starting nod at short stop this weekend.
Reynolds, a freshman from Tulsa, has battled redshirt sophomore Tim Carver for the job in what many players called the most exciting position battle on the team. Reynolds played with the first-team in a scrimmage Saturday, reaching base twice, stealing a base and scoring a run.
"We lost a lot when we lost our two middle infielders and we'll miss their experience, but these guys are doing a great job," Van Horn said.
Reynolds will join first baseman Andy Wilkins, second baseman Bo Bigham, third baseman Zack Cox and catcher James McCann as starters in the infield, while Collin Kuhn (left), Eibner (center) and Jarrod McKinney (right) are expected to get the nod in the outfield.
Not just Wilkins and Cox
Andy Wilkins and Zack Cox combined for 32 home runs last season and impressed in the summer with Wilkins starting for Team USA and Cox ranked the second-best prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America.
While opposing coaches and pitchers might single out the pair, a new addition, Monk Kreder, will add a third power bat to the middle of the lineup.
"He's a right-hand hitter and that's what we need to separate Wilkins and Cox if we decide to against left-handed pitching," Van Horn said. "He's a tough out and doesn't strike out a lot, and knock on wood that's how it will be."
Kreder will man the designated hitter position for the Razorbacks. He was named the national player of the year in the junior college ranks last season, hitting 19 home runs in helping Howard Junior College to a 63-1 record and national championship.
"At Howard he didn't strike out a lot," Van Horn said. "Obviously the pitching here is better but he showed he can hit in the fall. He was hurt in the fall and only got about 25 at-bats, but only struck out one time.
"He'll hit 3, 4 or 5 in the order. Eibner will be up in there with Cox and Wilkins and a couple of runners at the top and a couple of runners at the bottom. There's some pop waiting to get in our lineup and some good runners, too. This could be a very good lineup."
McCann invited to Team USA tryouts
Sophomore catcher James McCann has been invited to try out for Team USA in July.
Also voted a team captain in the fall, McCann has wowed coaches and scouts with a strong, accurate arm that threw out 15 base runners in split time last season.
"It's a real honor," McCann said. "Wilkins got to play with that team last year and he told me, ‘If you get the chance, take it.' I grew up always wanting to play with USA across my chest and play for my country. It's an extreme honor just to be asked to try out and something I've dreamed of since high school."
McCann said if he doesn't make the team he will play for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League alongside Cox, who starred for the Kettleers last season.
"Either way it will be an honor," McCann said. "It's a good set-up regardless of where I go."