Lindgren Gets Opening Day Starting Stint

The weekday working schedule has had to adjust for wet weather. But a weekend pitching schedule still has to be picked, and Mississippi State has set the first starting assignment. The ball goes to Jacob Lindgren for Opening Day 2013.

"I think we're pretty committed to that," Coach Butch Thompson said Tuesday. "He was our pitcher of the fall, and Jacob has really pitched well."

Lindgren, the lefthanded sophomore, was no slouch in his freshman spring either. As a true rookie he posted a 2-2 record and 3.18 ERA in 14 appearances, once picking up a save. Only two of those stints were starts, but a good summer and even better fall semester on campus have pushed Lindgren to the forefront.

His first pitch comes shortly after 4:00 Friday when Mississippi State hosts Portland in the first of four scheduled weekend games. The Diamond Dogs were to have shifted into game-week mode tomorrow, but Tuesday's plans were washed away by steady rains. That included the final preseason scrimmage, which Coach John Cohen will now try to get played Wednesday.

Fortunately Thompson has had enough scrimmages and bullpens—there were four sets of that format Tuesday—to put some pieces into places for the Portland series. Don't call it a rotation though. First, because a four-game weekend presents a differing situation than the three-in-threes ahead. And second, as longtime fans understand, coaches want to watch as many arms as available as soon as possible.

So for the moment the pitching coach continues weighing choices for the scheduled Saturday twinbill, with 12:30 and 3:30 contests. And along the way Thompson has been playing some games of his own with the MSU moundsmen.

"I asked them a trick question I guess; who is our number-one pitcher? Everybody started naming names, I'm like no. Our number-one pitcher is whoever is on the mound, throwing the next pitch! That's how we need to act." Because Friday begins a frantic stretch of 19 games from February 15 through March 10, all at home. Oh, and a neutral site matchup with Southern Mississippi in Pearl on the 12th.

"For these twenty games it ought to be neat," Thompson said. "You get to play on a pitching staff in a program where players get to make the lineup out."

The veteran pitcher who has the biggest say in how the rotation shapes-up will be senior Kendall Graveman. The righthander is still coming off a sports hernia procedure that slowed his preseason. His first two scrimmages were struggles, then the third showed more of the Graveman everyone expects. Besides, Thompson notes, he is the ranking starter.

"We don't think he's 100% but we think he's healthy enough to go out and pitch if we think that is the best for the team. So he's got to plug into one of those spots somewhere." The smart money is on Graveman working Saturdays come SEC season for his durability and reliability.

Starting this first one though might depend on more than his own health. "With the forecast are we going to end up moving some stuff around?" Thompson said as far as the now threatened schedule. "Because Saturday looks atrocious." No, it looks just plain cold with highs fortunate to reach 40 and a northwest wind making it colder.

Whatever Graveman's status, this is not a staff short of good starting options as preseason has proved. "Evan Mitchell, you just want to give someone who has top-end skill some opportunity," Thompson said. "The way I see it with Evan, he has top SEC skill. Like Coach Cohen said, he's done a better job with his ‘big misses'. Can he bring his command into focus to stay in a starting role?"

"You've got Will Cox, Trevor Fitts, Chad Girodo. They've all been training for this. And only one person can start, so the other two guys will move into the bullpen somehow."

There is the other obvious factor on picking pitching for the third and fourth games. "Just for the fact of, who is Portland?" Thompson said. "We've got reports on their whole season, they've got eleven new players. I think we'll make a better decision after competing with them a couple of games."

Going into Wednesday the only real question mark as far as pitching health is soph righthander Brandon Woodruff, after an elbow procedure. He is being brought-back very carefully but was supposed to toss Tuesday.

"If we could ever get this intrasquad in it would tell us where Brandon is at. I think every pitcher and coach believes Brandon can be as good as any starter we have, too, at least compete for that. It looks like we'll go Wednesday now. If Brandon can give us three good innings tomorrow, I would he would be the most likely candidate for next Tuesday when Grambling comes in here."

Thompson will be charting and counting the pitches of course, allowing for individual strengths and tendencies. "I'm comfortable with every one of our starters being trained to go to 75 pitch-range. Outside that it becomes a stretch.

"And if we have all this depth we say we have, why would we stretch them past where they are currently? So we think 75 is kind of a magic number for what we've trained. How difficult, grinding innings or easy innings, will shake out where we're at with individuals."

Mississippi State announced today that Sunday's fourth game with Portland has been pushed back an hour, to a 2:30 start, to accommodate the 12:30 women's basketball game with LSU in Humphrey Coliseum. Also, all four games are local radio broadcasts. Friday and Saturday's first game are on 100.9FM, with Saturday's second game and the Sunday contest on 103.1FM.

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