Cal righty Daulton Jefferies will return from injury after seven weeks to start against Utah in Pac-12 series finale

Daulton Jefferies (6-0, 1.29 ERA) will return to the mound after seven weeks on the shelf and start Monday's series finale at 7 p.m., against Pac-12 leader Utah.

I’ve confirmed with California's coaching staff that the Bears will start junior righty Daulton Jefferies in the series finale against Pac-12 leader Utah on Monday at 7 p.m.

Jefferies -- a preseason All-American -- began the season as the No. 24 MLB Draft prospect in the land, but he’s slipped down into the 40s, having missed seven weeks since allowing two runs in a complete-game performance against Oregon State on March 24. That game, according to D1Baseball, is when the injury occurred. It’s now been reported that he has a chronic degenerative SLAP tear – standing for superior labral tear from anterior to posterior – otherwise known as a tear in the labrum of the shoulder. It’s an ailment that usually tapers away and becomes clinically pain free. It’s not like Tommy John surgery with elbows – the best way to treat a SLAP tear of this grade is rest and inactivity. Unlike the rotator cuff, the labrum is a cartilaginous structure, so it can’t be strengthened.

Jefferies has been ramping up his throwing program over the last three weeks, and he will likely be limited in his first start back, but he’s been sitting at 90-94 in his latest bullpen sessions.

While he has told coaches that he can stretch out, Cal doesn’t want to test his him, because they don’t know how sharp he will be.

No matter what the outcome tonight, what this does is put Jefferies on track for a longer start next weekend at Washington State, and that has huge implications.

Since losing Jefferies, the Bears have gone  17-13, with four of those wins coming against hapless Northwestern, after starting the season among the top 10 in several polls, and going 12-6 to start the season.

A healthy Jefferies completely changes the way that the selection committee looks at the Bears. With the addition of hard-throwing reliever Alex Schick -- who returned to action from a knee injury shortly after Jefferies went down -- the pitching staff is now just as strong -- if not stronger -- than it was at the end of last season, when Cal made a strong run in the College Station, Tex., Regional.

Right now, the Bears are 30-19 overall, with a 12-14 mark in conference play. After sweeping the Beavers, Cal went on to sweep UCLA, but since then, have dropped five straight conference series, with head coach David Esquer sporting a white beard that he will only shave once Cal has taken a Pac-12 series.

If Cal wins the series against Utah -- which leads the Pac-12 despite being 22-26 overall -- and then can take two of three from Washington State, that makes them 15-15, and no longer an easy out, even if, as projected, the Bears go across the country as a No. 3 seed in a Regional. By the time Jefferies would make his third start back – likely in the first game of a Regional -- he’d be a full-go, with no limitations. Even if Jefferies is pushed back and pitches the second game of a Regional, he’d be backing workhorse Ryan Mason. Either way, that’s as solid a 1-2 punch as there is in college baseball, and with a lineup that leads the Pac-12 with a .290 batting average and 46 home runs.

Even without Jefferies for nearly two months, the Bears' pitching staff still leads the conference with a 3.14 team ERA. Top Stories