Florida facing questions in rotation

The Gators have options as they head to Baton Rouge this weekend. Usually, that's a good thing. This year, the options come because the Gators have been searching for a consistent starter besides Jonathon Crawford all season. There are multiple pitchers that could fill those roles and start a game this weekend, but even Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan doesn't know who it will be.

Jonathon Crawford hasn't been the possible first-round pick that the Gators were hoping to get this season. He's 3-5 with a 4.06 ERA this season, but after serving as the best pitcher on Team USA over the summer, he hasn't carried that momentum into his junior year.

However, there are signs of improvement. Crawford still provides the best option on the starting pitching staff, and his upside is better than any other starter. He is penciled in as a starting pitcher this weekend at LSU, even if the day he will throw isn't set in stone.

After that, the Florida staff may as well be drawing names out of a hat.

Jay Carmichael showed potential early in the season, currently sporting a 3-1 record with a 2.60 ERA but has been out in recent weeks with arm tendinitis. He pitched one inning during Florida's practice on Tuesday and could be an option this weekend.

"I think he's ready to go. I think his arm feels fine," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.

Freshman left-hander Danny Young looked capable of being a weekend starter, but he took a line drive to the mouth last weekend against Tennessee and needed 25-30 stitches on an injury that could've been much worse. He is expected to be cleared to pitch this weekend but O'Sullivan said on Tuesday that he might be hesitant to throw him back into the fire in an atmosphere like the one Florida will face at Alex Box Stadium this weekend.

"I think he probably needs to get his feet wet again," O'Sullivan said. "He probably says he's fine to start, but I'd probably feel more comfortable bringing him out of the pen in a short stint and see what it looks, and then kind of go from there."

There are other options, too. Eric Hanhold has earned five starts this year and could be a candidate again this weekend. The numbers aren't pretty on paper. Hanhold is 0-2 with a 5.92 ERA, allowing opponents to hit .303 against him. However, Hanhold has been throwing much better in recent weeks and has potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher over the remainder of his career.

If O'Sullivan elects to go away from a freshman in a hostile environment, sophomore left-hander Bobby Poyner could get the call. He tossed five shutout innings against Tennessee on Sunday before struggling in the sixth inning, but he could be a candidate to give the Gators a quality outing in Baton Rouge.

It's all about getting some quality innings out of the starting rotation before turning the ball over to the bullpen. If the Gators can do that while still being in the game, it has to be considered a success.

"There's just a lot of uncertainty with who we start," O'Sullivan said. "I do know this -- a lot of these young guys will get experience down there on Thursday and Friday. We're not going to ask anyone to go nine innings.

"If it's a two-inning stint, a three-inning stint -- they've just got to go out there and throw strikes and let us play defense. That's the bottom line. We're going to have a lot of guys contributing."


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