Auburn, Ala.--With plenty of question marks surrounding the pitching staff heading into the first weekend of the 2016 regular season, Coach Butch Thompson and the Auburn Tigers (2-2) have just as many questions in week two as they prepare to face Southern in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.
With Friday night starter Cole Lipscomb out this weekend because of a violation of team rules and Sunday starter Gabe Klobosits struggling his first time out, Auburn will head into the series with just one spot in the rotation a definite as redshirt senior Justin Camp will again get the call on Saturday.
“We’re going to be TBA on Friday and keep Camp on Saturday and be TBA on Sunday,” Thompson said. “I just want to go into a weekend, I feel like where we are behind other programs right now is working together and who should pitch when and who should pitch behind them. That’s work we still have to do, so we’re going to be a little more open-ended to allow us to make all the moves we need to and see the things we want to see going into the weekend.”
Being without Lipscomb is a big blow for the Tigers after he won the season opener after allowing just one earned run in five innings against Sacramento State. Without him Auburn will likely turn to junior college left-hander Tavo Rodriguez, who allowed one run on two hits in two innings in his only appearance of the season.
“Tavo Rodriguez has been a starter and threw a couple of innings on Friday or Saturday,” Thompson said of the transfer who got some work in a bullpen throwing session on Wednesday. “He was doing a little bit of work to potentially get one of those. We’re just going to see when we get to the back end of the game because I still don’t see our team comfortable with those last few frames.”
The good news is that Camp is off to a good start, allowing just two runs on five hits in six innings last weekend. He should give the rotation some stability and that could be big heading into a Sunday where the starter could be determined by who’s left in the bullpen with Klobosits likely still to get the call.
Other possibilities include Izaac Yarbrough freshman Daniel Sprinkle, or even late inning relievers Casey Mize or Ben Braymer, but they are expected to keep their role in the bullpen.
Auburn’s questions on the pitching staff may come at a good time with a Southern team coming to Plainsman Park that is struggling in every facet of the game. Outscored 36-2 in three games, the Jaguars lost a pair of 15-0 seven-inning games last weekend to Grambling State and Louisiana Tech before falling to Alcorn State 6-2 on Sunday. Thompson said no matter the results his team is prepared to play its best baseball because that is what is required to improve as a team.
“They’re going to come in here and try to beat us,” Thompson said of Southern. “We need to continue to try to get better everyday. That’s an honest statement and it’s something we need to continue to do, try to continue to play the game of baseball as well as we can. We’re going to respect them and be ready.”
Game times for the weekend series are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.