FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas sophomore Zack Cox is probable for this weekend's NCAA Regional at Baum Stadium, he said Tuesday.
Cox, who led the SEC in batting average this season with a .432 clip, has missed five of the Razorbacks' last six games with what he described as a rib injury suffered May 16 while swinging a bat against South Carolina. That included sitting out the SEC Tournament last week in Hoover, Ala.
"It's been tough on me to sit there and rest and watch everybody play," Cox said. "But I knew it was what was best for me and the team, and the regionals are more important. That kept me driven.
"It's a weird injury. It's in my rib but I just need to make sure I get enough rest. It was never really my back. It's on my left side. My left lat would be the best place to describe it."
Cox took swings against live pitching in Tuesday's practice for the first time in more than a week after taking time off to let the injury heal.
"I had some confidence going into today," Cox said. "To be able to come out and take full swings, that means a lot. That means I'll be able to go in and swing free in a game and not have to worry about it.
"The rest has definitely helped. There's no replacement for rest and letting it heal on its own."
"He took 19 or 20 swings and hit the ball really, really well," Van Horn said. "He didn't have any pain. The rest of the guys got 35-plus swings. He worked some off the tee and he'll do the same tomorrow and Thursday and if everything keeps going as it's going, he'll be in the lineup.
"He hasn't been able to do hardly anything for two weeks. He's a little out of shape and we're trying to work him back into shape a little bit. He took ground balls and is fine, so that's a positive."
Asked if there was any chance he wouldn't play this weekend, Cox said probably not.
"I would have to tweak it again," Cox said. "But right now I feel 100 percent and feel great."
Cox isn't the only Razorback that has been hurt. Brett Eibner (hand) took fielding practice Tuesday but hit off a tee inside the batting cages.
"Brett is a little bit behind and he'll get looked at again by a doctor," Van Horn said. "Hopefully he'll be able to hit on the field tomorrow and for sure by Thursday. He looked great in the outfield being able to run balls down. So things are looking up a bit."
Andy Wilkins hit three home runs in a row at one point in batting practice. He looks to be fine after being knocked out of the game last Thursday against Florida when he ran full-speed into pitcher Drew Smyly on a pop-up in the infield. Van Horn said senior pitcher Mike Bolsinger should be ready to go Saturday or Sunday after experiencing some soreness in his throwing shoulder.
Getting those players back for postseason play will be a plus for an Arkansas squad that struggled down the stretch. The Razorbacks picked up road series wins at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt the last three weeks, but were swept at home by South Carolina, lost a midweek game at Oklahoma and scored just three runs in two games at the SEC Tournament last week.
Arkansas (40-18) will host Grambling (22-30) in the first game of the NCAA's Fayetteville Regional on Friday at 2:05 p.m. Senior right-hander TJ Forrest will make the start on the mound for the Razorbacks.
"He didn't throw in the SEC Tournament and he's the freshest guy," Van Horn said. "He's been pitching really well. We feel good about him. He's excited, he's a senior and he wants the ball."
Van Horn said like most teams, Arkansas feels good heading into the postseason and looks at it as a second season.
"I think everybody in the regionals (look at it that way)," Van Horn said. "If you're playing great you hope you can keep it going and if you're struggling down the stretch you hope you can turn it around. Obviously we stumbled down the stretch and we're hoping we can turn it around.
"The practices have been good. Just doing the little things like coming out early and working on bunting, working on communicating and team baseball, hitting and running, and going the other way...Those are some things I've been talking about that we've gotten away from a little bit. We'll see how it goes this weekend."