Bolsinger Back to the Bullpen

Arkansas senior Mike Bolsinger will return to the bullpen this weekend against Mississippi State.

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas senior right-hander Mike Bolsinger will move back to the bullpen this weekend at Mississippi State, Razorback coach Dave Van Horn said Monday.

Bolsinger (4-1) has been Arkansas' Friday starter all season. The decision comes after consecutive disappointing performances in the starting role, including a 12-8 loss to Kentucky Friday night in which Bolsinger went 2 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on nine hits.

He bounced back Sunday, however, pitching 1 1/3 innings in relief to earn the decision in a 17-16 Razorback win over Kentucky.

"The last two games he's started he hasn't thrown as well as he usually does," Van Horn said. "Maybe he's uptight. Everything has been elevated and he's throwing the ball up and his velocity wasn't there, like he was trying to save it.

"We put him in yesterday against Kentucky and he was throwing 91 to 92 miles per hour after pitching two days before. I just think he's looser and that might be the best thing for a while. It doesn't mean he won't get back in the starting rotation but this might make us a better team."

Bolsinger was a star out of the bullpen on last season's team that advanced to the College World Series, becoming Arkansas' go-to guy in relief. Of his 30 appearances last year, 29 came out of the bullpen. He went 6-4 with two saves.

Arkansas has lacked that long relief pitcher this season, however. To make matters worse the No. 10 Razorbacks (22-6, 6-3 SEC) are currently down two relief pitchers in Jason Fuqua (elbow) and Geoffrey Davenport (groin).

"We were just trying to be fair to Mike and give him the opportunity to start a few times, but I think right now we have to be fair to the team and do what's best for the team," Van Horn said. "Right now this might be the best move. Mike needs to embrace that and I think he will. He wasn't real happy at first, and disappointed, but he probably sat back and thought about it and when we told him yesterday to go down and get loose he didn't throw his hands in the air or anything.

"It'd be nice to get Fuqua and Davenport back confident. We feel like our better days are ahead of us if we can get everybody back and healthy, and clicking on all cylinders. If we can continue to win with some guys hurt and some guys not at their best, that's a good thing."

With Bolsinger out, Drew Smyly (3-0) will start Friday night. Smyly, who was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week Monday, has a league-best 1.60 ERA. Brett Eibner will start Saturday.

Van Horn said the Sunday starter hasn't been determined. Depending on how much he throws the first two games of the series, Bolsinger could start the series finale or Arkansas could turn the ball over to freshman Randall Fant. The left-hander Fant started the Sunday game against Alabama on March 28 and will start Wednesday's contest with Saint Louis on a 40 to 45 pitch count, Van Horn said.

"If Mike doesn't throw a lot of pitches on Friday he could come back and pitch again on Saturday or for sure on Sunday," Van Horn said. "He might pitch twice on a weekend which could be a big thing for us."

Van Horn mentioned earlier in the year that freshman closer DJ Baxendale might start on the weekend. The usually-reliable Baxendale gave up seven runs in the eighth inning to Kentucky Sunday, allowing the Wildcats to turn a four-run deficit into a 16-13 lead before Arkansas came back to win in the ninth inning.

"He's probably not going to start right now," Van Horn said. "He needs to get a couple of things worked out mechanically. He's been throwing the ball a lot more side armed than he was a couple of weeks ago. We've been looking at video and Coach (Dave) Jorn is working on that right now. He just had one of those days where it snow-balled on him and it happens. But I have no problem starting him or pitching him on the weekend if that's what we needed."

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