Auburn, Ala.--Missing the last 18 games after injuring his right wrist diving for a ball against Missouri, Auburn’s leading hitter Josh Palacios may be closer to getting back in the lineup for the Tigers as they prepare for the home stretch of the 2016 season. Working against live pitching the last few days, Palacios’ return is getting closer said Coach Butch Thompson.
“The BP (batting practice) is stronger and I can report that’s five days in a row,” Thompson said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be in a Kirk Gibson type of role (pinch hitter) or if he’s on the verge of being able to start, but it’s the most optimistic we’ve been in four weeks.
“He’s put a bunch of days together, even to the point of where it should be fatigued with 40-50 extra swings. We think he’s closer, realistically, than he’s been since the injury.”
Auburn’s leading hitter with a .408 average, Palacios has five home runs, four triples, nine doubles and 23 RBI this season in 30 games played and was part of one of the most lethal duos in college baseball along with Anfernee Grier at the top of the Tigers’ batting order.
Without Palacios behind him things have been different for Grier in the last four weeks. Entering that Missouri series the center fielder was batting .427 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in the first 30 games of the season. In the last 18 games his batting average has dropped 37 points with 26 strikeouts and only four walks during the stretch.
The good news for Auburn is that in Palacios’ absence senior Jackson Burgreen has stepped up in a big way. Reaching base in all 18 games since the injury, Burgreen has upped his average from .255 to .292 and has continued to play stellar defense in left field.
Getting Palacios back would give the Tigers the ability to make some moves in the field and at the plate, something not possible at the moment when you factor in the loss of Daniel Robert in the field as well.
Auburn (22-26) returns to action Wednesday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on Kennesaw State at Plainsman Park. The two teams met earlier this season with the Owls taking a 6-5 decision.