Gators Hope Whitson Gets in Rhythm Wednesday

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan knows how important Karsten Whitson is to his team's postseason run. That's the reason the sophomore right-hander will get the ball on Wednesday when the Gators host Bethune-Cookman. No. 2 Florida needs to get him right in the remaining weeks before the postseason begins. O'Sullivan hopes that Wednesday is the first step to making that happen.

Karsten Whitson was shut down during his second start of the season on February 26. O'Sullivan said he had a tired arm, stemming from not throwing much in the fall because of a groin injury. His arm didn't have as much built up strength, and Whitson wasn't as sharp as he was during the freshman campaign that earned him National Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors from Perfect Game.

The sophomore returned for a scoreless inning of work against North Florida on April 3 and made his first conference start of the year against LSU on April 7. The return against the Tigers lasted just one inning, where he gave up two hits, two runs (one earned) and hit two batters. The control wasn't there yet.

Since that outing, Whitson made another mediocre start (3 IP, 6 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 K) against Tennessee on April 14. He then had short relief outings against Georgia Southern and Georgia last week.

The hope for Wednesday night is that Whitson can work into the middle innings and get his routine back. O'Sullivan know what the sophomore can do when healthy, and he would be a big asset to the Florida pitching staff if he can regain form.

"Karsten is going to start tomorrow," O'Sullivan said after Tuesday's 5-3 loss to USF. "We've got to get him going. It's as simple as that. He had a long layoff, and we tried to push it too quick. He needs to get out there and get his feet wet. We're going to need him down the stretch.

"In all fairness to him, he needs to go out there in a game like tomorrow and go out and get his rhythm back. We're really looking forward to getting him out there."

There aren't a set number of pitches for Whitson's outing. The coaches will monitor him to make sure he feels fine and let him try to get back in the routine of a starting pitcher.

His arm feels fine and there is no healthy concern anymore, as Whitson's fastball flashed as high as 94 mph on the scoreboard radar gun during his relief outing against Georgia on Sunday.

"We'll just watch him and see how he looks," O'Sullivan said.

The Gators won the first outing of the season against Bethune-Cookman (24-17) in February by a score of 8-6. First pitch Tuesday is set for 7 p.m.

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